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Judge gives state one last chance to fix sex offender program

New Jersey and other states have various systems for dealing with treatment of sex offenders. A program in Minnesota, which confines sex offenders to secure prison-like facilities after they complete their prison sentences, has been found unconstitutional. The judge pointed out that even people who do well in treatment and present a low risk for re-offending seldom get released from the program.

The judge did not order any immediate changes to the program. Rather, he charged the state's political leaders with presenting proposed remedies at court hearings beginning this August. If the state does not put forth acceptable solutions, the judge has threatened to close the two facilities or order release of many of the patients.

The state's governor and other elected officials continue to defend the program as constitutional and have resisted attempts to reform the system for fear of appearing to be soft on crime. However, no one has yet stated an intention to appeal the judge's ruling.

Criminal sex offenders present a unique problem for state corrections systems. Many people believe that serving the statutory time for a crime is not enough because a sex offender is likely to offend again. Many states require sex offenders who are released from prison to register with the state, and the information is made available on the Internet. Those who are charged with sex crimes may find themselves permanently labeled a sex offender and may face serious obstacles to finding employment and housing. A criminal defense attorney may be able to assist a client facing such charges in developing a strategy to use before and at trial.

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