Federal judge hears arguments in suit filed by Minnesota sex offenders

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A lawsuit filed by several civilly committed sex offenders that seeks to declare the state's controversial treatment program unconstitutional was brought before a federal judge Wednesday, the Star Tribune reports.

Of the nearly 700 sex offenders in the Minnesota Sex Offender Program, only one has been provisionally discharged since the program began 19 years ago.

“The statute that was supposed to treat and release people has failed,” Daniel Gustafson, a Minneapolis attorney representing sex offenders told Judge Donovan A. Frank in St. Paul.

Attorneys with the Minnesota Attorney General's Office argued against the sex offenders' claim, arguing that the current treatment meets the constitutional requirement for procedural due process, the newspaper says.

Frank says he'll rule on the constitutionality of Minnesota’s civil commitment law within 60 days.

A state task force created to come up with changes to the program found Minnesota has the highest per capita rate of any state that uses civil commitment and has the lowest release rate.

The panel, headed by former Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Eric Magnuson, is recommending that an outside group develop a new assessment process to evaluate sex offenders who might qualify for the program. Also, the panel says Minnesota judges should have the option of sending offenders to less restrictive treatment facilities versus Moose Lake and St. Peter.

If Frank rules in favor of the plantiffs, he could impose changes to the program, including the release of sex offenders, before state lawmakers get a chance to amend the law next session.

In August, a special review board recommended the provisional release of 58-year-old Thomas Duvall, who has spent the last 13 years in the sex offender program. He's been convicted three times for raping teenage girls and has attacked at least 60 women.

Both Gov. Mark Dayton and Attorney General Lori Swanson are seeking to halt Duvall's release.

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