A trial that begins this week in Minnesota will focus on the practice of holding sex offenders indefinitely, reports The Marshall Project. Fourteen plaintiffs named in a class-action lawsuit allege, in part, that the state's sex-offender civil commitment program is a de facto life sentence. More than 700 sex offenders have been sent there in the 21 years since the program's inception. Three have left.
Twenty states and the federal government run sex-offender civil commitment programs, which provide states with a way to indefinitely detain people deemed sexually dangerous. Minnesota has the highest per capita commitment rate. “The fact is, there are thousands of people released every year from prison, and picking out from those thousands the 3 percent, 4 percent, 5 percent who are actually going to commit another sex crime in the next year, it's impossible,” says Eric Janus, dean of William Mitchell Law School and a longtime critic of the civil-commitment program.