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Sex offender gets rare release from Minnesota's controversial treatment program

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In a week in which major changes to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP) are being discussed, a man is set to become only the fourth person ever to secure a provisional release from it.

ABC 6 reports that 68-year-old Benjamin Gissendanner is close to being released from the MSOP treatment center in St. Peter – one of its two high-security treatment facilities in the state – and then move to Rock Dell Township, in Olmsted County, next month.

Gissendanner was convicted in 1982 of breaking into a woman's home in St. Paul and sexually assaulting her, the TV station notes. He also had a prior conviction in New York state for a similar crime.

The Rochester Post Bulletin reports that he is classed as a Level 1 offender (not the more serious Level 3), and that his release from MSOP requires broad public notification, and he must also register as a predatory offender.

Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson told the Star Tribune that Gissendanner will be "closely monitored" by the MSOP through face-to-face visits, random surveillance and GPS monitoring, with violations resulting in a possible return to MSOP.

He will become only one of a handful of people to be released from the controversial program, which could undergo sweeping changes after it was deemed unconstitutional by a U.S. District Judge in June for keeping sex offenders locked up well past their prison sentences.

Governor Mark Dayton said he intends to appeal the decision made by Judge Donovan Frank, but in the meantime put forward proposals to reform the program that he warned would cost taxpayers "tens of millions."

His proposals include biennial evaluations for current and future clients (after criticism from Judge Frank that inmates didn't have their cases regularly reviewed) and construction of new facilities for patients that don't need as high security as others at its facilities in Moose Lake and St. Peter.

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