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ABC 6 Investigates: Minnesota Sex Offender Program Part 2

Updated: 11/25/2013 7:13 PM
Created: 11/25/2013 7:08 PM KAALtv.com
By: Laura Lee

(ABC 6 News) -- It's a story we have been following for months, the future of the Minnesota Sex Offender Program.

Even though the men and women in the treatment program have served their prison sentences, they claim they are still locked up.

Now its up to lawmakers or a federal judge to decide their fate.

Read part one of our investigation.

In Part 2 of our investigation, as state officials work on finding a solution, another voice is asking to be heard as well.

Victims.

"I understand the choices and the crimes we committed are horrible," says Jeff a so called "client" inside the treatment program.

Jeff is a level three sex offender currently in his third year of commitment into the Minnesota Sex Offender Program.
    
He was sent to Moose Lake after sexual assault and public masturbation charges.

"I saw a few females and I had an urge to expose," he says.

He is currently in a class action lawsuit brought on by the nearly 700 sex offenders  suing the Department of Human Services.
    
Governor Mark Dayton recently directed the Department of Human Services to halt the releases of sex offenders until changes can be made to the program.

Voice of Victims

But there is a voice that is barely mentioned in this debate, the voice of the victims.

"It's just not fair to victims, and that's just what it is," says Elizabeth Leger, a sexual abuse survivor.

Leger shares her story because she says her voice matters too.

"Do you know what its like to be a victim, do you know what its like to live in fear everyday of your life," she says.

To be clear -- Jeff is not Elizabeth's perpetrator.  It was her own step father who raped her repeatedly for two years when she was just 9-years-old.
  
"It's been ten years and every once in a while I still have nightmares about him," says Leger, "he took part of my life, that I'll never get back."

Given a Chance

"There are plenty of people in here who can go out and lead perfectly healthy lifestyle, they just need the chance," says Jeff.

Jeff wants that chance.  His mother Carol agrees. 
    
"There are some that are dangerous and deserve to be in the program, but I think there are some that can go on to lead productive lives," she says.
 
"That's probably the biggest frustration here among the clients, is that there is not, as of now, the light at the end of the tunnel," says Jeff.

So much so, some are turning to other methods of escape: suicide.

"I remember I was jogging and I noticed Ray and he was talking to himself and he I said, Ray are you feeling okay and he mumbled stuff," says Jeff, "but I could tell he was down."

A few days later Ray Messer took his own life.

"It takes a person who has to be in a dark place to think that is the only way out," says Jeff.

Victim's Message

"Some of these guys are acting like they are victims and you're not a victim," says Leger referring to the offenders inside the treatment program.

For every sex offender "locked up" in the Minnesota Sex Offender Program, there is a victim out there locked up as well.

"I have a life sentence," says Leger.

"Yeah you're locked up physically, but I am locked up mentally for the rest of my life," she says.

Leger says news of other perpetrators possibly being set free from the program is a step in the wrong direction.

"Personally, I don't think that sex offenders can rehabilitate."

"I have hurt a lot of people, i'm deeply sorry," says Jeff, "there is nothing I can do to change that."

"I'm very remorseful about what I have done," he adds, "I don't like the person I use to be."

"That's why that exit door is so important to me."

Jeff is awaiting his court date to find out if he is approved to move on to phase three of treatment, essentially his last stop before moving back into society.
    
Those on the state task force says the recent suicide does add a level of urgency to this issue.
   
The task force is expected to give their final recommendations to state lawmakers in December.    



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