When sex offenders complete their prison sentences, they may be committed to the state’s sex offender program for an indeterminate period, and 8th Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that the program does not violate the 8th Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. The law had been challenged by a class of people who have been civilly committed to the program, some of whom have been there for years. The ruling is a setback for people who are facing felony sex offense charges because it means that even when their sentences are finished, they may be held indefinitely. A Minneapolis felony lawyer advocates for his or her clients in order to try to convince judges not to sentence them to Minnesota’s sex offender program upon completion of their prison sentences.
The Minnesota Sex Offender Program
Judges may civilly commit sex offenders to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program once they have completed their prison sentences. In order to commit an offender to the program, a judge must find that the offender is a sexually dangerous person, has a sexually psychopathic personality or both. There are two locations in Moose Lake and St. Peter. The first two phases of the program are completed at Moose Lake before offenders are transferred to St. Peter for work towards their discharges. Currently, there are 721 people who are in the program, and it has been criticized because offenders are held for lengthy periods of time after their criminal sentences have been discharged. In the 20 years that the program has been operating, only 14 people have received conditional discharges, and only one has been fully discharged from the program.
Lawsuit and Ruling
A group of sex offenders who are in the program sued the state in 2011, arguing that their lengthy periods of confinement in the program violated their rights to due process and the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment under the eighth amendment. A U.S. District Court judge found that the program was unconstitutional in 2015, and the state appealed. In the ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, the judges found that the state had a legitimate interest in protecting the public from sexual predators and that the interest outweighed any due process concerns. Attorneys for the inmates are unclear about what they will do next. A Minneapolis felony lawyer believes that substantial reform needs to be completed to the sex offender program.