State sex offender program sees first suicide

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A man in the Minnesota Sex Offender Program's Moose Lake facility died Saturday after an apparent suicide.

MPR reports the victim was 45-year-old Ray Messer who was convicted in 1991 of fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct and in 2007 for second-degree criminal sexual conduct. Messer was civilly committed to the program after his second conviction.

The Minnesota Department of Human services says it's the first suicide in the program's history. The Star Tribune said there have been two reports of previous suicide attempts this year and one attempt last year.

The Minnesota Sex Offender Program provides treatment for nearly 700 offenders at facilities in both Moose Lake and St. Peter, but it's very difficult to be released.

The program has been the subject of criticism since the state has yet to treat and fully discharge a sex offender from the program in two decades, according to a Pioneer Press report.

After a class-action lawsuit was filed by several civilly committed sex offenders in the program, a judge ordered the state to show that the treatment it was providing could lead to rehabilitation and release.

Lawmakers failed to approve any changes to the program during the last legislative session, which may leave a decision on the program up to a federal judge.

Former Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Eric Magnuson, who's leading a panel working on recommendations for changing the program, says the federal judge in the class-action suit could rule the program unconstitutional.

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