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Reality Check: Minnesota's Sex Offender Treatment Program

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Minnesota's sex offender treatment program is getting sharp scrutiny after a federal judge ruled it unconstitutional.

It turns out that Minnesota locks up more dangerous sex offenders than almost anywhere else.

Minnesota confines more sex offenders per capita than any other state, at treatment centers in Moose Lake and St. Peter.

The Department of Human Services reports there are 714 male offenders and 1 woman, ages 21 to 93. Sixty-seven committed violent sex crimes as juveniles.

The modern-day civil commitment law passed in 1994 during a special legislative session called by then-Gov. Arne Carlson.

It prevented a violent sex offender named Dennis Linehan from getting out of prison and a treatment program, even though he already served his time.

It gave the state new powers to keep sexually-dangerous offenders in custody indefinitely for "treatment."

In 2003, there was public outcry after a recently-released sex offender murdered a college student. The state then began to review every high-risk offender in prison about to be released.

Many went into "treatment," and never got out.

In 2000, Minnesota committed 149 sex offenders for treatment.

In 2010, it was 575.

By 2020, an estimated 1,109.

A St. Paul Pioneer Press study in 2010 discovered each of the 500 sex offenders at Moose Lake victimized an average of 16 people, mostly children.

Sixty percent of the victims were younger than 13, and 85 percent were younger than 18.

The cost of treatment is staggering: $124,000 a year for each sex offender, compared to $31,000 per year for each prison inmate.

The most dangerous sex offenders make up only three percent of the population.

Many -- 16 percent -- are in prison.

But most sex offenders -- 81 percent -- live among us in our neighborhoods, in community-supervised settings.

Here are some of the sources we used for this Reality Check:

Dept. of Human Services Sex Offender Program - 1

Dept. of Human Services Sex Offender Program - 2

Office of Legislative Auditor Report

Number of Clients in Minn. Sex Offender Treatment Program

Ages, Locations of Sex Offenders

Pioneer Press Study of Sex Offenders

Minn. Sex Offender Civil Commitment Law

Cost Per Client of Sex Offender Treatment

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