Locked up indefinitely, Moose Lake sex offenders seek elected office

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Look strictly at the math, and you'll see the numbers are there.

Sex offenders at the Moose Lake facility – frustrated with a lack of resolution regarding the program that keeps them locked up indefinitely – want representation, the Star Tribune reports; someone who speaks for the 460 convicted offenders inside the facility. And they've targeted the Moose Lake City Council, mayor's office, judgeships and the county coroner race with a write-in campaign, the paper reports.

The numbers

There are about 2,787 people in Moose Lake, according to Google population data.

KARE 11 reports 925 people there are registered to vote.

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Of those registered voters, Northland's NewsCenter says at least 150 are sex offenders at the facility, located at 1111 Highway 73 in the city.

Add in the additional 265 or so offenders KARE 11 says are eligible to register, and that voting bloc would suddenly make up nearly 36 percent of all the registered voters in the city.

During the most recent city council elections two years ago, the candidate who finished in third place got about 192 votes, Northland's NewsCenter says.

There are two City Councilor spots, each with a four-year stay, plus a two-year mayoral term, up for grabs Nov. 4.

The social reality

What the sex offenders are fighting against is the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP), the state's much-maligned treatment plan that sees sex offenders who have served their sentence locked up indefinitely.

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 MSOP is now the subject of a class-action lawsuit, and state officials are under pressure to make changes, with a federal juudge describing it as “clearly broken.”

While the numbers point to a scenario in which convicted sex offenders end up in one or more elected offices, the social reality makes such an accomplishment seem unlikely.

According to the Star Tribune, the offenders want a chance to re-integrate into society if they've completed treatment, without shackles around their ankles – a near-impossibility under the current system.

MPR spoke with one of the sex offenders running for city council, Kenny Daywitt, about his campaign.

But two Moose Lake residents spoke with KARE 11 about the possibility, with one telling the station the sex offenders' campaign was "pitiful," and the other saying a large voting presence would "make some of the city fathers squirm."

The Star Tribune says a similar effort by offenders in 2002 fell short after residents heard about the effort, and in response increased voter registration themselves.

The sex offender program

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.

The Minnesota Sex Offender Program has 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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