Judge Certifies Sex Offender Suit As Class Action

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Minnesota Sex Offender Program can move forward as a class-action effort involving more than 600 people who have been indefinitely committed to the program, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank ruled that the lawsuit meets the legal requirements for a class action. He concluded that addressing each case individually would be an “enormous drain” on legal resources.

The sex offenders who’ve been committed to the program have all finished their prison sentences, but prosecutors and the courts have deemed them too dangerous to be released without treatment. They’re officially considered patients, not prisoners, but they’re not free to leave. Until one patient earned a provisional discharge into a halfway house earlier this year, none had been successfully released since the program began in 1994.

Frank wrote that all the offenders in the program face an identical process for treatment and possible release, raise similar allegations about a lack of realistic opportunities for earning their freedom, and have sufficiently similar legal interests for their cases to go forward together.

The lawsuit levels several allegations against the state, including failure to provide adequate treatment. It also challenges the constitutionality of the state’s civil commitment statute. While the courts have upheld the constitutionality of the program before, it’s been dogged by persistent questions about costs and the lack of anyone being released.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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