Dayton, lawmakers hear recommended changes to sex offender law

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Gov. Mark Dayton and legislative leaders heard from members of a task force proposing changes to the Minnesota Sex Offender program on Tuesday.

Former Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Eric Magnuson heads the task force. He went over some of the recommendations with the governor and lawmakers during a private meeting on Tuesday.

The report, issued earlier this month, is calling for a reworking of the civil commitment process. It found that Minnesota's current system "captures too many people and keeps them for too long."

The report outlines that Minnesota has the highest per capita rate of any state that uses civil commitment and has the lowest release rate.

The recommendations include creating an independent professional group to develop and implement an assessment process to evaluate sex offenders who might qualify for civil commitment and give judges the option of sending sex offenders to less restrictive treatment programs instead of the treatment facilities in Moose Lake and St. Peter.

Senate Minority Leader David Hann told MPR News, "There's sort of agreement that what we are doing is constitutionally sound. But there are questions about how that is applied that have raised some concerns, and I think those concerns are broadly shared by Republicans and Democrats."

MPR reports House Speaker Paul Thissen said he thought the meeting helped legislative leaders better understand the challenges ahead.

The issue is expected to be a big one during the legislative session that begins in February. The Senate Judiciary Committee said last month that changes are needed to the system.

A lawsuit has been filed claiming the sex offender program is unconstitutional.

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