The state of Minnesota has decided against appealing a ruling that will see the first ever total discharge from the controversial Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP).
Commissioner Emily Johnson Piper, through a Department of Human Services spokesperson, confirmed to BringMeTheNews she will not appeal the discharge of 26-year-old Eric Terhaar, which was upheld last month by the Minnesota Supreme Court.
The reason for this, she says, is that it could set an unwanted precedent that could undermine the future of MSOP, which she sees as “critical to public safety.”
“Until now, I have actively opposed the release of this Minnesota Sex Offender Program client,” she said. “I had to weigh the risk that an unsuccessful appeal may set a precedent that could undermine the commitments of other clients.
“My recent appeal in another case was denied by the court. Continuing to have a strong program is critical to public safety.”
The other case she is referring to is the provisional discharge of MSOP offender Christopher Coker, with Piper’s appeal failing despite what she says was “unanimous testimony from experts against his release.”
Terhaar is among the 700-plus “civilly committed” people in MSOP, who are essentially locked up at one of two high-security facilities (in Moose Lake or St. Peter) for an indefinite period of time.
The future of MSOP in its current form is under question, with a federal judge demanding immediate changes to the program after ruling it “unconstitutional” for effectively keeping offenders confined after they served their prison sentence, with no prospect of ever being released.
Terhaar will become the first offender to ever be released from the program without being subjected to intrusive levels of supervision in the community, or without being first released to a halfway house, the Star Tribune notes.
He entered MSOP six years ago at the age of 19, having first entering a “secure” facility at the age of 14 after a turbulent childhood that saw him sexually abused multiple times in a juvenile facility in California. But he also reported sexually abusing some of his developmentally disabled siblings.
The Supreme Court ruling (which you can read in full here) says Terhaar isn’t a danger to the public, and doesn’t need the type of treatment or supervision the MSOP provides.
Expert testimony has noted Terhaar does not have a sexual disorder, which means the chance he re-offends is lower. He’s also gone out into the community without incident, and visits to his father’s home have been called productive.