We are talking about the Minnesota Sex Offender Program, the post-conviction treatment program for convicted offenders that a federal court found unconstitutional this past June. The parties to the class action have now entered the remedies phase. The ruling made it clear that the program is in need of a complete overhaul.
In his opinion, U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank outlined a long list of flaws with the programs design and implementation, and the problems start before the offender crosses the threshold of either of the secure facilities. According to the program website, when a convicted sex offender is nearing the end of his prison sentence, the Department of Corrections determines whether there is a high risk that the offender will commit another crime. If the offender is a risk, the DOC refers the case back to the county that prosecuted the case.
The county then evaluates the case and decides whether to pursue civil commitment to MSOP. The county must convince a court that the offender is either a sexually dangerous person or a sexual psychopathic personality, as defined by statute. If the court agrees, the offender is committed to a secure treatment facility for “an indefinite period of time.” There is no trial by jury option offered to offenders, there is no appeal process for offenders who believe they have been wrongfully committed, and there are no less restrictive alternatives to the secure facilities.
The treatment program itself has three phases. How one advances from one phase to the next, however, is unclear. So unclear, in fact, that no civilly committed offender has been fully discharged from the program since 1994.
One reason it is so difficult to move from one phase to the other is that MSOP does not require an initial evaluation for offenders new to the program. MSOP does not call for periodic evaluations of the offenders, either. In 2012, the program timeline showed that it would take a “model patient” six to nine years to complete the three phases. As a result, this state has the lowest rate of release from commitment as well as the highest per capita population of civilly committed offenders in the country.
The judge has a long list of issues that the state must address, and, after a closed-door session with stakeholders, the plaintiffs’ attorneys have a long list of recommendations. We’ll look at those in our next post.
Source: Karsjens v. Jesson, No. CIV. 11-3659 DWF/JJK, 2015 WL 3755870 (D. Minn. June 17, 2015), via WestlawNext