Judge orders Minnesota to release man from sex offender program

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A 24-year-old convicted rapist will be one of the few inmates ever to be released from the maligned Minnesota Sex Offender Program, after a judge ruled this week he was not "highly likely" to re-offend, KEYC reports.

Cedrick Ince of Arlington, Minnesota, spent four years in prison for sexually assaulting two girls when he was 17 years old, Northlands NewsCenter reports. After his release, a Sibley County panel concluded he was likely to re-offend, and Ince was indefinitely committed to the MSOP's Moose Lake facility in 2012.

Explainer: MN Sex Offender Program

The Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP) provides services to individuals who have been court-ordered to receive treatment.

Those people are not prisoners, but have completed their sentences and are civilly committed to the program by the courts for an undetermined amount of time. The department says there are currently about 697 clients in the MSOP, spread across two facilities: Moose Lake and St. Peter.

In order to be discharged from the program, a committed offender must petition for approval from the Supreme Court Appeal Panel. The panel considers a handful of factors when deciding whether to release or transfer someone, including a person's clinical treatment progress, the potential danger to public safety and "the need for continued institutionalization."

Only one person has been successfully discharged for completing treatment since the program's creation in 1995.

But in April, the Minnesota Supreme Court reversed that panel's ruling, saying the evidence presented at his trial was not enough to prove he was "highly likely" to re-offend – the standard required for an indefinite commitment. So Ince's case was sent back to Sibley County district court to see if that standard could be met.

On Thursday retired Sibley County District Judge Thomas McCarthy ruled Ince is only likely to re-offend – not "highly likely" – KEYC reports, and must be released.

According to the Star Tribune, a date for his release hasn't been determined; when released, he will be watched by the Department of Corrections until his probation is up in about seven years. The county could appeal the decision.

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The Minnesota Sex Offender Program has been labeled "clearly broken" and state officials have been urged by a federal judge to make changes.

In July, a four-person panel criticized it again, and recommended the immediate release of two current inmates: a 24-year-old male who never committed a crime as an adult, and a 48-year-old who is the only female at an otherwise all-male facility.

In August their release was denied, but the overarching program was once again challenged.

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