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

2019_0914_Packers_Away_0419

What happens to the Vikings if Aaron Rodgers leaves the NFC North?

Rodgers said he isn't interested in rebuilding in Green Bay, is it time for the Vikings to pounce or stay the course?

ambulance

Sheriff: Men found unresponsive in garage died of cocaine overdose

Two of the three men found unresponsive in an Eyota garage last week died of a drug overdose, a preliminary autopsy found.

Anthony Edwards

Ant's injury clouds Timberwolves' victory over the Nets

The Timberwolves star was injured in the final minutes on Sunday night.

Akoya Lee

Byron native Ayoka Lee sets NCAA record for points in a game

The Kansas State forward broke a record shared by former Gopher Rachel Banham.

cold, wind chill, freezing

It's going to be stupid cold again Tuesday and Wednesday

They'll almost certainly be the 10th and 11th days with subzero temps this month.

Williams Uptown Pub

Williams Uptown Pub & Peanut Bar closes indefinitely after shooting

Reports say police have arrested two suspects in the incident.

Alex Rodríguez

A-Rod wears a Packers hat, Minnesotans lose their minds

The Timberwolves co-owner didn't endear himself to his fan base on Saturday night.

Flickr - Minneapolis police squad - Chad Davis

Police: Man shoots into crowd at funeral reception in Minneapolis

The shooting happened at a reception following a funeral on Saturday afternoon.

Related