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Task force to examine Minn. sex offender program

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A federal magistrate has ordered Minnesota to create a task force to explore less-restrictive custody options for sex offenders in the state's civil commitment program who rarely go free under the current system.

Chief Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan issued the order Wednesday in a class-action lawsuit filed by sex offenders in the program, which allows the state to hold sex offenders beyond their prison sentences indefinitely if they're considered dangerous.

The offenders are challenging the constitutionality of the program, saying they lack realistic ways of earning their freedom. None had been successfully released since the program began in 1994 until one patient earned a provisional discharge earlier this year.

Boylan directed the state's human services commissioner, Lucinda Jesson, to appoint a task force of up to 15 members to come up with legislative proposals by Dec. 3 on less restrictive alternatives to placements in secure treatment facilities. But its work won't stop there. He said the task force also should set out a schedule for proposing changes to the civil commitment process itself, and to the rules for how the offenders can get their time in commitment reduced.

He said the task force should include current or former legislators, prosecutors, judges and law enforcement officers; attorneys who have represented sex offenders; victim advocates; treatment and academic professionals; corrections and social service officials; and county commissioners.

Boylan said formation of the task force shouldn't hinder either side in settlement talks or ongoing litigation.

Courts previously have upheld the constitutionality of the state's program, but it's been dogged by persistent questions about costs and the lack of releases.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.