Since 1995, the adult Minnesota Sex Offender Program has been a prison for individuals who were committed both without a conviction or following prison time served. Between 1995 and June 2014, hundreds of individuals were committed to the program via civil, not criminal, procedures. Today, there is a chance that some of those individuals may be set free.
The MSOP is possible under state civil commitment laws that date back to the 1930s. According to reports, the law covered sex offenders beginning in the 1990s. Without a sex crime conviction, or after serving time in prison for such crimes, individuals could be committed to MSOP if it was determined that they posed a danger to self or others.
Unlike some rehab arrangements, which are worked out with courts in lieu of prison time, according to the numbers, being committed to the MSOP seems like a life sentence. Over 20 years of operation, the program has reportedly only released one person. Meanwhile, the program has seen an influx of admissions.
After a sex offender completes a prison sentence in Minnesota, the case can be reviewed, and a judge determines whether the person should be committed to MSOP for additional rehabilitation. Over the past decade, the numbers are up, reportedly likely due in part to the rape and murder of a girl by a recently released sex offender in 2003. Statistics indicate that Minnesota sees more individuals committed than any state with a similar program.
A class action suit was filed in early 2014 on behalf of individuals in MSOP. According to reports, the release of at least one person from MSOP has been recommended. Others are hoping that this is a positive sign for future freedom and that the case brings the issue of civil commitment to light. As the existence of the MSOP illustrates, criminal defense should always encompass a comprehensive, long-term approach, and take post-prison life into account.
Source: MinnPost, "Uncertainty surrounds possible release of clients from Minnesota Sex Offender Program," Briana Bierschbach, July 8, 2014