Skip to main content

The Minnesota Sex Offender Program: What to know about today's meeting

  • Author:
  • Updated:

Monday morning, a conference that could help determine the future of the beleaguered Minnesota Sex Offender Program will take place in federal court.

Here's a brief explanation about why it's happening, and how we got to this point.

What's the meeting for?

At the meeting, Gov. Mark Dayton, Judge Donovan Frank, Attorney General Lori Swanson, Republican and DFL lawmakers and others will discuss possible ways to fix the sex offender program – the state's system for treating offenders deemed in need of further treatment.

Why is the meeting being held?

There's a long, winding backstory to all of this, but basically, the state's sex offender program was ruled unconstitutional in June, after a lawsuit was filed by the more than 700 offenders currently confined in the program. They argued the program was unconstitutional.

And Frank, in the June ruling, agreed.

Monday's conference is a direct result of that ruling, and former Chief Justice Eric Magnuson, who led the calls for the program's reform, will oversee the potential changes.

Dayton, even after the program was ruled unconstitutional, continued to defend the program.

And what's unconstitutional about it?

Frank ruled the program is unconstitutional because it keeps offenders who completed their prison sentence locked up indefinitely, with little empirical evidence they have the chance to get out.

In fact, of the hundreds of offenders confined to the two facilities (in Moose Lake and St. Peter), only three have been provisionally released in the 20 years it has been running. None have been fully released.

OK, so this meeting: Can I go and weigh in?

No, it's not open to the public. Nor is it open to media organizations, despite a request from the Star Tribune, The Associated Press, New York Times and other outlets arguing it should be.

Frank said the closed conference will allow for freer discussions, and noted there won't be a final decision made Monday. Participants are allowed to talk about it publicly afterward, however.

What comes next?

Probably a lot more talking.

The Associated Press notes the discussions, part of a "remedy phase," could continue for weeks or months, unless a settlement is reached at some point. It also notes the eventual ruling could pave the way for programs in other states to be challenged.

Have they tried to make changes before?

Minnesota’s legal leaders, including Magnuson and Frank, have over the past two years urged state lawmakers to restructure the program.

But the reforms haven't come, with state Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson previously saying her department had started making changes, but full reforms are proving difficult because of a lack of funding.

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

Critics have also pointed to the financial cost to running the program in its current form, with FOX 9 previously reporting it costs the state $73 million per year.

Next Up

monkeypox virus

Minnesota up to 6 confirmed cases of monkeypox virus

Most people recover at home within 2-4 weeks.

thc edibles

Did Minnesota just accidentally legalize THC?

A Republican lawmaker who voted to approve the new law in May is already talking about rolling it back.

Screen Shot 2022-06-30 at 3.19.42 PM

Gasoline may be cause of sewer explosion on U of M campus

An all-clear was given around 9 p.m. Thursday, with residents in the area allowed to return to their homes.


Overwhelming demand for THC products on first day of new law in MN

One shop owner said his Chaska store broke the online sales record before they opened Friday morning.

Flickr - Lake Minnetonka boat - Greg Gjerdingen

Increased drunk boating enforcement over 4th of July weekend

The increased enforcement is part of the Operation Dry Water initiative.


Four kayakers stranded, rescued in Chisholm park

The kayakers became stranded at Redhead Mountain Bike Park Thursday afternoon.


Duo charged after 10-pound meth package sent to wrong address

More than 10 pounds of meth are off the street thanks to a delivery error.

Screen Shot 2022-07-01 at 11.01.32 AM

Bird Rides' suburban expansion continues in Minnesota

Its scooter season in Minnesota. The latest on where you can find Bird e-scooters:

Flickr - police lights squad siren - Edward Kimmel

Man found dead with 'trauma to his face' in St. Paul

A man was found dead with "trauma to his face" in St. Paul after 3 a.m.

Hibbing ambulance

Boyfriend jailed after woman found dead in Hibbing

The woman was found dead on Tuesday, June 28.


2 motorcyclists killed in crash near Duluth

The crash happened at a curve in the road north of Duluth.

Life Link

18 injured in two separate crashes involving teen drivers

The crashes happened Thursday in Ham Lake and North Branch Township.