A Minnesota sex offender testified Tuesday about his frustrations over the difficulty of ever getting out of the state’s civil commitment program, where he’s spent 23 years with no end date in sight.
Dennis Richard Steiner, 65, was first patient to take the stand in a class-action lawsuit on behalf of more than 700 offenders who have been committed to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program indefinitely after finishing their prison terms. They say it’s unconstitutional because hardly anyone ever gets out, that the treatment is too often inadequate because of staff shortages and turnover, and that there’s no certain path to discharge.
The state argues that the program is constitutional and that the number of residents who qualify for release is small simply because so many of them are too dangerous.
Steiner, who lives at the program’s Moose Lake facility, admits to molesting 31 boys ages 8-16. He said he agreed in 1992 after his last conviction to enter a precursor to today’s program because he was led to believe he would spend only three or four years in it instead of serving a 12-year prison sentence. But he said the program kept changing and he kept getting sent back to the beginning.
A special judicial panel last month cleared Steiner to transfer into a different program that’s outside the razor wire at the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter. The Community Preparation Services program is meant to ready offenders who have made good progress for release into less restrictive settings, but he’s still waiting for the formal order.
“Do you think you’re ever going to get out?” attorney Dan Gustafson asked him.
“Not at its current rate. … Nobody has,” Steiner replied.