The Minnesota Sex Offender Program fails on many levels, a federal judge ruled yesterday, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. Offenders in the program have an overall sense of hopelessness with no promise of release before death, said U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank in a class-action lawsuit that challenged the program’s constitutionality. The program amounts to a punitive system, even though offenders in it have completed prison sentences, Frank wrote. They are sent there under the guise of getting treatment and are supposed to be released upon its completion. Few hit that mark, either because the mark keeps moving or because program administrators don’t authorize a release.
In the program’s 20-year existence, only three offenders have been granted provisional release; no one has ever been fully discharged. Minnesota’s release rate is the lowest in the U.S., the judge said. He issued a scathing review of the program and called for major changes. “The Fourteenth Amendment does not allow the state, DHS (the Department of Human Services), or the MSOP to impose a life sentence, or confinement of indefinite duration, on individuals who have committed sexual offenses once they no longer pose a danger to society,” Frank wrote. “The court must emphasize that politics or political pressures cannot trump the fundamental rights of class members who, pursuant to state law, have been civilly committed to receive treatment. The judge suggested more than a dozen changes and ordered the parties to confer and find appropriate remedies.