It was after a class action lawsuit filed by inmates of the Minnesota Sex Offender Program argued that their indefinite civil commitment was a violation of their constitutional rights that a federal judge ordered the state to change the program. It was after a foreign court refused to extradite a man accused of a sex crime to Minnesota, however, that it truly became obvious how horrible the Minnesota civil commitment program truly is. Calling it a “flagrant denial” of the suspect’s human rights, the court would not send the man to Minnesota even though there was only a chance that he would be civilly committed.
Unfortunately for Minnesotans, our sex offender program is one of the largest in the nation; Minnesota commits more individuals per capita than any other state. There are currently more than 600 people enrolled in the program. Recognizing the need for a change, a panel of 15 judges, mental health professionals, individuals within the sexual rehabilitation field and public safety officials have been tasked with reforming the program.
By Dec. 3, they will need to have recommendations on how to create an alternative to the secure treatment facilities that are currently being used.
The task is certainly not easy. Though many people may recognize that the Minnesota Sex Offender Program needs to change, some people in the community are likely concerned about releasing former sex offenders into the community, even if they have been classified as nonviolent offenders by prison officials. In addition, as options like halfway houses emerge, the panel will have to deal with individuals concerned that these facilities will be in their neighborhoods.
This blog has previously talked about how serious sex crimes can be in Minnesota, especially for those previous offenders who must register on the sex offender registry. This story shows that, for some, one mistake could also lead to a lifetime of civil confinement.
Source: Star Tribune, “Sex offender panel is clear on gravity of its assignment,” Gail Rosenblum, Oct. 13, 2012