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Expert panel calls for quicker treatment and release of Minnesota's sex offenders

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Hundreds of convicts locked in the controversial Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP) should have their treatment and releases brought forward, a report said Tuesday.

A panel of four experts appointed by a federal court made 44 recommendations for sweeping changes to the program, and among them is a call for sex offenders to have annual reviews to see whether they need to be in custody anymore, the Star Tribune reports.

The program is designed for sex offenders who have completed their jail sentences but have been court-ordered to receive their treatment. It sees offenders housed at two facilities, in Moose Lake and St. Peter.

However, only one person has ever been discharged from the program since it was created in 1995 and critics argue that inmates are effectively carrying out life sentences as the system commits them to the facilities indefinitely.

Earlier this year, U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank called for Minnesota's lawmakers to overhaul a system he described as "clearly broken".

The panel was appointed to review the program as part of a lawsuit filed by some of the offenders on the program who allege it is unconstitutional, MPR reports.

The four experts have called for a change in the law so the program is reserved for those who are "truly the most dangerous and are at highest risk to re-offend", according to KSTP.

Another major criticism leveled at the program, the Star Tribune says, is that there is "no clear path toward release," and one of the proposals put forward by the panel seeks to address that, by recommending the state begins planning the discharge of sex offenders as soon as they are admitted.

The panel also called for officials to expedite the transfer of the program's sole female offender to a different location, according to the Pioneer Press.

How the system works

Offenders on the program need to petition from approval from the Supreme Court Appeal Panel to be discharged.

This panel will take into account the petitioner's clinical treatment progress, the potential danger they pose to public safety, and their "need for continued institutionalization.

Only one person has been released since 1995, though in September a judge ruled that a 24-year-old convicted rapist on the program was "unlikely to re-offend," opening the door for his potential release from the program.

Just last month, residents of the Moose Lake facility ran write-in election campaigns for local office as they bid to get representation of their views and fight against the system that they say denies them the chance to re-integrate into society.

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