Skip to main content

Court ruling this week could upend sex offender treatment program

  • Author:
  • Updated:
    Original:

A judge's ruling expected Wednesday could dramatically change Minnesota's controversial sex offender treatment program.

U.S. District Court Judge Donovan Frank, who heard several weeks of testimony during the trial of a class-action lawsuit, has already said he believes the program is “clearly broken” and has urged Minnesota lawmakers to overhaul it, but that has yet to be done.

A group of the more than 700 civilly committed sex offenders sued the state alleging that it is unconstitutional to keep them locked up indefinitely as part of the Minnesota Sex Offender Treatment Program (MSOP).

The people in the program are not prisoners. They have completed their prison sentences and in most cases have been civilly committed to receive treatment at one of the two MSOP facilities – in Moose Lake or St. Peter – for an indefinite period of time.

The suit alleges the state doesn't regularly review the offenders' treatment progress to determine whether they can be released.

In the 20 years of the program, only three people have been released.

During the February trial, state Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson acknowledged her department is "taking too long" to reform the program based on recommendations from a state task force. She testified some changes are being made, but said they can't move more quickly because of a lack of funding.

It's widely expected that Judge Frank will rule the program is unconstitutional, the Star Tribune reports.

Frank has signaled to lawmakers many times that the sex offender program was on shaky legal ground and urged them to fix it. But even with those warnings, the Legislature didn't take steps to address the issues in either of the last two sessions.

The Associated Press reports that Gov. Dayton proposed a measure in the latest budget bill to at least begin addressing the judges concerns, but it got pushed aside during negotiations late in the budget process.

Assuming Frank sides with the plaintiffs, he probably won't order any offenders to be released right away, according to the Star Tribune. But he could order the state to take any number of immediate steps to reform the program.

The state has been laying plans to move more offenders into the community, in part by contracting with several agencies to provide housing and treatment for them, the Star Tribune notes.

But the paper also points out that many communities in Minnesota are likely to vigorously oppose any housing in their cities for released sex offenders.

Next Up

Screen Shot 2022-10-06 at 4.04.40 PM

Ramen bar announced for upcoming Eat Street Crossing food hall

The restaurant roster is filling up at Eat Street Crossing.

police lights squad car dark - Unsplash

Man dies after being shot during argument in Minneapolis

It's the 70th homicide in Minneapolis this year.

NearNorthEncampment

Minneapolis police, city employees clear out Near North encampment

This comes as colder weather moves through the state.

Screen Shot 2022-10-06 at 4.32.46 PM

New T.J. Maxx to open in the Twin Cities this month

Opening day will kick off with extended hours.

Screen Shot 2022-10-06 at 3.04.24 PM

Former Hennepin County commissioner arrested for DWI

The 61-year-old was being held in Hennepin County Jail as of Thursday morning.

Evie Carshare

Electric carshare network showing growth in Twin Cities

Over 25,000 trips have been logged in a six-month span.

Screen Shot 2022-10-06 at 1.11.01 PM

Popular Apple Valley ice arena could be replaced

A concept plan to transform the ice arena is being considered.

21a171abc8c6a3619739a786eed516a563206c38bec4a972944e80fa213b9ab6

Low river levels bring cancellations for St. Paul-New Orleans Viking cruises

The low water also impacted some barge traffic making its way down the river.

10.6 Tempest Weather Thumbnail

Drought tightens grip as Twin Cities reaches 'extreme' level

By this time last year, drought was fading fast in Minnesota.

Screen Shot 2022-10-06 at 11.23.49 AM

Woman missing since car crash has been found

The 49-year-old is believed to have been driving when the crash happened.

Related