Minn. Sex Offender Program faces tough questions in wake of court ruling

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 68-year-old man who has spent more than two decades in the Minnesota sex offender treatment program is expected to be provisionally released this fall. A state Supreme Court Appeals Panel has given permission for Benjamin Gissendanner, a convicted rapist, to stay in a residential facility southwest of Rochester. He's only the fourth offender in the program to ever reach provisional release. No offender has ever been fully discharged.

The future of the Minnesota Sex Offender Program is currently the subject of debate. U.S. District Court Judge Donovan Frank held a private meeting this week with lawmakers and state officials to discuss how to fix the program. That meeting stemmed from a class-action lawsuit, in which more than 700 sex offenders sued the state, claiming it's unconstitutional to keep them locked up indefinitely — and saying they don't get adequate treatment.

Eric Janus, member of the Sex Offender Civil Commitment Advisory Task Force, spoke with Tom Weber about provisional release, as well as the future of the sex offender treatment program.

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