Appeals court puts changes to sex offender program on hold until hearing

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The state of Minnesota won't have to make any dramatic changes to its sex offender treatment program, at least for the next few months, as a federal appeals panel prepares to determine whether the program is constitutional.

U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank ruled the program unconstitutional earlier this year. Last month, he ordered the state to make immediate changes, including reviewing the 700-plus inmates in the program to see if they were eligible for release.

The state of Minnesota is appealing that decision and asked the appeals court to put Frank's orders on hold until the panel reviews the case.

The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is based in St. Louis, issued a one-page order Tuesday staying Frank's ruling, and scheduled oral arguments in the case for April 12.

Frank ruled the program unconstitutional because it confined sex offenders in high-security facilities with little hope of release. 

Those enrolled in the MSOP are not prisoners. They are sex offenders who have served their sentences in prison and, after an evaluation, are deemed to require further treatment.

They are then civilly committed to receive that treatment through the MSOP at two high-security facilities – in Moose Lake or St. Peter – for an “indefinite” period of time.

Only three people have been released from the program in its 20 years, and even then only provisionally.

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