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Director of program for sexual psychopaths resigns

St. Paul, Minn. — (AP) - The head of the state's treatment program for sexual psychopaths has resigned, but denied that he's leaving due to the political furor over a proposal to move some offenders from the program into less restrictive settings.

Dr. Michael Farnsworth, 46, was an architect of the plan to develop less prisonlike settings for some of the 190 sex offenders now confined by the courts to secure psychiatric hospitals in Moose Lake and St. Peter.

The proposed changes, which ignited a dispute in June between Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Attorney General Mike Hatch, included the eventual move of some patients to halfway houses or other state programs or into the community under state supervision.

Farnsworth said Wednesday that he had decided to resign as forensic director back in April, which was well before the controversy began.

He also said that he believes the proposed changes to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program should go forward, and that he expects they will under new leadership.

"The whole sex-offender-treatment issue has stalled, mired in politics and controversy, and it will take time to sort it out," he said.

Officials of the Department of Human Services, which operates the program, said recruitment of Farnsworth's successor would begin immediately.

His resignation is effective Sept. 23. He said he will start a mental health consulting firm, which will allow him to return to treating patients.

The Star Tribune of Minneapolis reported in June that officials were contemplating less-secure treatment settings for some of the sexual psychopaths. Hatch, who is frequently mentioned as a possible 2006 DFL candidate for governor against Republican Pawlenty, said any changes in the program might be driven by budget reductions.

Pawlenty lashed back, denying that the state planned to release sexual psychopaths into the community and charging Hatch with using the issue for political gain.

At a legislative hearing, Anita Schlank, former clinical director of the program, testified that she resigned in June because she felt the proposed changes were partly driven by cost concerns, and, if enacted, would put the community at risk.

Since the dispute erupted, Pawlenty has issued an executive order making it virtually impossible for sexual psychopaths to be released unless required by a judge or the law.

According to state law, a special review board can recommend releasing a sexual psychopath who is no longer dangerous. The human services commissioner can approve it or deny it. If the recommendation is denied, the patient can appeal to a three-judge panel. Pawlenty's order blocks the commissioner from recommending any releases.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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