Federal Judge Orders Minnesota to Fix Sex Offender Program

A federal judge recently ruled that the controversial Minnesota Sex Offender Program needs to be overhauled in order to make it fair. The program was designed to protect the public by civilly committing and treating only the most violent and dangerous sex offenders after they have served their prison time.

The practical reality for many individuals who have served their time for various sex crimes in Minnesota has been a life sentence with no opportunity for review and virtually no chance of release. Now a federal judge is ordering the state to make changes.

In order to accomplish this, Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan ordered Lucinda Jesson, the Commissioner of the state's Human Services Department, to impanel a task force to examine MSOP's policies and procedures and come up with fair recommendations to fix the program. Boylan said that the task force should be made up of experts including professionals who work with sex offenders, legislators, judges, law enforcement officers, prosecutors and attorneys who represent people in MSOP. These experts, says Boylan, need to address how the program is run and what can be done to make it less restrictive.

This ruling was precipitated by a lawsuit filed by patients who have been detained in the program. The suit claims that patients' constitutional rights are being violated because they are held indefinitely by MSOP, even though they have already paid their debt to society and completed their prison sentences.

Does MSOP Hurt More Than It Helps?

The MSOP was created in 1994 in order to civilly commit sex offenders after they have been released from prison. The rationale for this is that by giving sex offenders the counseling they need to re-enter the community, it will ensure that they do not commit these offenses again. This measure was intended to be used in the most drastic of cases, and in the nine years after its inception, only about 15 convicted sex offenders were ordered to civil commitment under the program.

However, the number of civil commitments began to rise sharply in 2003 after Dru Sjodin, a college student at University of North Dakota, was murdered by a man who had recently been released from prison after serving time for a rape charge. Shortly after the man was arrested for Sjodin's murder, about 50 sex offenders were placed into the MSOP. Since then, the number of people in the program has skyrocketed to a total of 600 patients.

The main problem with the MSOP is that it in effect amounts to a life sentence for many sex offenders. Since its inception, only two convicted sex offenders have been released. Although the state says this program is designed to keep the public safe, critics say that it is flawed because it is virtually impossible for a patient in an MSOP facility to be granted release. In fact, since its inception, only two patients have been discharged from the facility.

Protect Your Rights

If you have been charged with a sex crime, your freedom and your future are on the line. You will need a strong advocate who has a reputation for vigorous representation and isn't afraid to challenge the charges and the law itself.

An effective defense begins as soon as you find out you are being investigated. To protect your rights, you should hire a Minneapolis sex crimes lawyer right away.