A federal judge ordered that all inmates currently held in the controversial Minnesota Sex Offenders Program (MSOP) have their cases independently reviewed.
In an order Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Donovan Frank instructed the state of Minnesota to review the 700-plus inmates in the program to see if they are eligible to be released, or possibly moved to a lower-security facility, MinnPost's Briana Bierschbach reports.
If the state doesn't comply, Frank said he reserves the right to stop any more offenders being committed to MSOP, and hold the state in contempt, according to a tweet from the Associated Press's Brian Bakst.
Earlier this year, Frank ruled the program unconstitutional as it confined sex offenders in high-security facilities with little hope of release, and ordered that the state – which disagreed with the ruling – reform it or face changes being implemented by the court.
The state has already filed its appeal against the decision.
Governor Mark Dayton said at a press conference Thursday afternoon that evaluations are already being undertaken, and that he would not be comfortable speeding up the process at the rate being asked by the judge.
"I'm not going to put myself in a situation where I have to look in the eye of parents or families of someone victimized by someone who has been let out from the care of a secure setting and has re-offended," he said.
"We should be concerned about constitutional rights ... but they did not end up where they are by accident. They have committed horrible crimes, in some cases repeatedly."
Department of Health and Safety director Lucinda Jesson also said at the press conference that it currently doesn't have the funds with which to independently evaluate all of the inmates, which would cost at least $10,000 per inmate.
The Star Tribune describes Judge Frank as being "fed up with years of legislative inaction," saying the state has let hundreds of committed inmates be "unjustifiably detained" in an unconstitutional program.
No inmate has been fully released in MSOP's history, and only a handful have secured partial release.