Minnesota Needs To Figure Out Why It's Indefinitely Detaining 698 Sex Offenders

The Minnesota Senate is holding a hearing
today on how to reform the state’s sex offender program. The
controversial program has kept hundreds of people locked up long
after their prison sentences expire.

The Minnesota Sex Offender Program is structured in such a way
that shortly before a sex offender is released from prison, a judge
can – with less burden of proof than is required in criminal cases
– order that the offender continue to be held in a treatment
facility aimed at rehabilitating them. The process is called civil
commitment. “Civil” in this case means “involuntary.”
Reuter‘s FindLaw database

The commitment is intended to reduce the risk of future
dangerous sexual behavior. It is not meant to serve a punishment
for past crimes. Civilly committed sex offenders may be held for an
indeterminate amount of time. In other words, they may be held as
long as warranted to successfully treat them and to satisfy public
safety concerns.

Though FindLaw describes the Minnesota law as “fairly typical,”
U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank has taken a more critical
approach. He is overseeing a class action lawsuit against the state
and cautions that the program may be unconstitutional. Frank
that the program is conducted in an unconstitutional manner, and
that it had to be overhauled immediately or else face a potential
federal takeover.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press
that “in nearly two decades since the program began,
only one sex offender has been conditionally released.” Over the
last decade, the number of committed individuals shot up from 200
to 698. This gives it a higher per capita detention rate than any
of the other 16 states with similar programs, and makes Minnesota
“the nation’s leader in indefinitely detaining such offenders.” The
number of detainees would be higher, but as the Wall Street

, “two dozen offenders have died while being held.”

The problem has been exacerbated by the state government’s
political parlaying. Several sources have noted that both
Republicans and Democrats seem less concerned with treating
hundreds of people justly and more concerned with protecting their
own political future in case one of the criminals reoffends.
Although Governor Mark Dayton (D)
releasing certain criminals, he quickly backed off
following bad press and halted any releases until the state
legislature comes up with a solution.
, although Sen. Warren Limmer (R), the ranking
Republican on today’s Senate panel, has openly criticized the civil
commitment program, his party has largely opposed previous
legislative attempts to change it.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/11/18/minnesota-needs-to-figure-out-why-its-in

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