When a man was born 24 years ago, he tested positive for a number of substances including marijuana, cocaine and alcohol. According to the StarTribune, he was abandoned by his mother and grandmother and was placed in foster care. At 10 years old, he sexually abused his developmentally delayed sister of the same age. As a result of that incident and other sexually aggressive behavior over the next four years, the man was committed to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program.
Today, the man is still part of the program, though he has never had a criminal conviction as an adult. For that reason and many others, experts on sex crimes are now taking the program to task.
The mission of the MSOP
According to the Minnesota Department of Human Services, the MSOP is a program that aims to provide treatment for someone the courts have civilly committed. A sex offender may be required to partake in treatment if they meet criteria such as the following:
- The court determines the person is a sexually dangerous person.
- The court determines the person is a sexual psychopathic personality.
- The court determines the person fits both the above descriptions.
The state’s human services department notes that the intention is to start treatment at one facility and, upon completing two phases, transfer to a second facility to work toward discharge. However, in the program’s 19-year history, only one person has ever been discharged successfully.
Treating sex offenders
The American Psychological Association reports that most sex offenders are unlikely to repeat their crimes. Experts in this young man’s case go on to say that children who commit sex crimes rarely continue the behavior as adults. Therefore, long prison stays and restrictive post-release monitoring are not effective means of treatment for people who have been charged with a crime such as a sex offense. Instead, the APA suggests that programs should focus on behavior modification and how to avoid criminal impulses.
In the case of the young man in question, specialists argue that the prisonlike atmosphere of the MSOP facilities is not conducive to offering him the proper treatment. What’s more, they point out that the staff at MSOP has been evaluating the 24-year-old using metrics that apply to adults, when the man’s actions took place during his adolescence. Opponents claim that the man, who has been in the program for five years, has not developed the skills to live independently. There is currently a class action lawsuit against the MSOP that claims that program participants’ due process rights are violated because they are not provided the opportunity for release nor effective treatment.