Minnesota Sex Offender Program declared unconstitutional

A federal judge has declared Minnesota's Sex Offender Program unconstitutional for indefinitely locking up offenders.

In a class-action lawsuit involving more than 700 convicted sex offenders, a judge has ruled that Minnesota's Sex Offender Program is unconstitutional, according to MPR News. The judge described the current program as "draconian" for imprisoning those convicted of sex crimes for indefinite periods of time and with little chance of release. While the ruling will not immediately lead to any offenders being released, it could provide the impetus to get lawmakers to make important changes to the controversial program.

System is "clearly broken"

Under the current system, sex offenders who have completed their jail sentence are then often civilly committed to facilities where they are required to undergo treatment and rehabilitation. The civil commitment statute, however, makes it incredibly difficult for such offenders to ever be released back into society. Currently over 700 people are being civilly committed at maximum-security facilities and since the 1990s only two people have ever been given a provisional release from the program, according to the Minnesota Post. No offender has ever achieved full release.

The judge noted a number of problems with the program, specifically the lack of a periodic review of offenders' progress, the high burden of proof placed on offenders rather than the state to prove they are ready for a less-restrictive environment, and the fact that a judge can more easily send an offender to the program than an offender can get out of it.

Looking for solutions

The ruling, however, does not mean that anybody in the program will immediately get released. Instead, the judge has given lawmakers the opportunity to make changes to the Sex Offender Program to bring it inline with the Constitution. If they fail to do so, however, the judge may begin ordering the release of some offenders, particularly those who are currently in the program but do not have an adult criminal record, as well as those with mental and physical disabilities.

The change has suggested some changes, including a review of those offenders in the program who are the most vulnerable, such as the elderly, disabled, and those who were committed as juveniles. Furthermore, he says offenders should be provided with legal counsel by the state and facilities should be constructed that are less restrictive than the current maximum-security ones.

Criminal defense

Being charged with a sex crime is extremely serious, not just because of the tough sentences that are regularly handed down to convicted offenders but because of the damage a charge alone can do to a person's reputation. If charged with such a crime, it is vital to contact a defense attorney immediately. A qualified criminal defense attorney can advise clients who have been charged with any serious offense about what their rights are and what they can do when faced with such charges.

Keywords: sex offender, registration, sex crime, penalties