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Conflicting stories about sex offender program disturb lawmaker
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Psychologist Anita Schlank said she quit her job as clinical director of the sexual offender program because she was told that the department would release about 40 of the sexual psychopaths. (MPR Photo/Marisa Helms)
The former clinical director of the state's sexual offenders program told state lawmakers Monday night that she quit her job earlier this year because of plans to release some of the sexual psychopaths in the program. Her testimony, however, conflicted with that of the state human services commissioner. Kevin Goodno told the joint legislative committee that there are no plans to release committed sexual offenders and called such allegations "outrageous."

St. Paul, Minn. — There are 199 "sexually dangerous" people, or sexual psychopaths in the the state's civil commitment program. They were ordered into the program following their prison sentences when the courts determined they still posed a risk to the public. Not one of them has been permanently released since the program began in 1994.

However, a recent newspaper article said the Pawlenty administration was looking at releasing some of them to save money. The article set off a storm of partisan accusations and angry denials.

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Image Sen. Becky Lourey

Senate DFLers scheduled the hearing, saying they wanted to get to the bottom of the matter.

The alleged changes have not happened, and late last week Gov. Pawlenty issued an executive order prohibiting any release without a court order.

But during questioning from Sen. Linda Berglin, DFL-Minneapolis, psychologist Anita Schlank said she quit her job as clinical director of the sexual offender program because she was told that the department would release about 40 of the sexual psychopaths currently in the program without completely treating them.

"It was a directive I had received from the medical director," she said. "I took notes right after the phone conference about that conference call, and it was my understanding that it was a directive."

"It was a directive to you that you were to begin to participate in a planning process for making it possible for 40 individuals who'd been committed to be released into a supervised release program in the community?" Berglin asked.

"Yes. That's correct," Schlank said.

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Image Denies talk of releasing psychopaths

Medical Director Michael Farnsworth is out of the country and did not testify. Commissioner Goodno wasted no time in his testimony reminding the senators of the administration's position. Goodno denies that there was ever any discussion, much less a plan, to release the 40 patients.

"That's not even thinkable. I mean it's outrageous to even propose that. So that's why we want to make sure that we find out if that discussion actually did take place and what the discussion was and what the recollection of all the people were. Because it is outrageous. And we need to talk about what happened to that policy if there was one, but right now, I don't have any documentation to share with you," Goodno said.

Sen. Berglin wearily expressed her frustration with the conflicting testimony. "I keep getting the feeling that somebody isn't telling the whole truth and it makes me feel very uncomfortable. And I don't even care that it's not under consideration anymore. If somebody would just say somebody had this idea and brought it up, and we no longer support it, then I would feel so much better, than to say nobody ever talked about this."

Goodno says the state's highest priority is public safety. He maintains releasing sexual offenders from the program is not in the works, but that his department has a duty to look at more cost effective and effiecient ways to run the program including treatment models, and housing. The current program costs about $22 million a year.

Senate Health and Family Security Chair Becky Lourey says she will closely monitor the administration's actions with the civil committment program to make sure it stays as it is.

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