Isaiah Swedeen, 20, had been through a series of treatment and detention centers after disclosing that he had raped his two sisters. Now officials were asking Judge James Reuter to confine him indefinitely, to prevent him from victimizing someone again, says the Minneapolis Star Tribune in the first of a series on sex offenders. Swedeen’s history of mental disorders, difficulties controlling himself and resistance to treatment meant he fit the legal definition of a sexually dangerous person, prosecutors from Pine County and the Minnesota attorney general’s office argued. They asked Reuter to commit Swedeen to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP). Created in 1994 to treat offenders until they are no longer dangerous, the MSOP has never released anyone committed to it.
The case illustrates the difficulty judges face in deciding sex-offender civil commitments in Minnesota. They are being asked to commit an ever greater variety of offenders to indefinite, prison-like confinement, based on the educated guesses of a small group of psychologists paid to employ the fallible science of risk assessment. Even some judges say the law is so broad that it can be used to send almost anyone with a sex-crime conviction to the program. “I can’t remember the last time I had a slam-dunk” sex-offender commitment, said Minneapolis psychologist Roger Sweet, a 30-year veteran of various kinds of commitment cases. “They’re all close calls now.”