Can programs successfully reintegrate sex offenders into community?

Minn. Sex Offender Program high-security facility
This April 19, 2010 file photo shows the Minnesota Sex Offender Program's high-security facility in Moose Lake, Minn.
Martiga Lohn | AP 2010

A federal judge ruled Wednesday that Minnesota's sex offender program is unconstitutional.

Judge Donovan Frank's decision will lead to major changes to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program, which keep civilly committed sex offenders locked up indefinitely.

MPR News' Kerri Miller talked to three experts before the ruling about a unique philosophy of welcoming—not shunning—newly-free sex offenders.

The COSA programs that states are experimenting with confront the question of what to do with sex offenders who have served their time.

From Pacific Standard:

COSA programs form part of a new trend in sex offender management. In the words of Ian Elliott, a forensic research psychologist who has received funding from the National Institute of Justice to study COSA, the aim today is to "produce pro-social people, as opposed to just well-managed people"--to encourage people to avoid re-offending not because they are afraid of the legal consequences, but because they recognize the harm their actions can cause others and themselves. COSA circles tend to focus on practical and lifestyle issues: how to get a job, make friends, and recognize a drift toward re-offending. COSA guidelines suggest that a volunteer from the group be in touch with an offender every day for the first few weeks after his release, and that the whole group meet at frequent intervals. Studies suggest that COSA can reduce sexual recidivism by about 60 to 80 percent, although the quality of those studies, Elliott points out, varies. The 2014 U.S. Department of Justice-commissioned report called the early findings about COSA "encouraging."

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