Talking Points: Legality Of MN’s Sex Offender Program

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A ruling late last week says the legislature needs to act to fix a draconian system that Minnesota uses to lock up more than 700 sexually dangerous offenders.

The ruling stopped just short of calling the program unconstitutional, but it appears to pave the way for some of these offenders to be released.

It’s the kind of charged issued that no elected official wants to deal with — especially in an election year.

More than 700 sexually dangerous offenders who have completed their prison sentences are locked up at state facilities in Moose Lake and St Peter.

Now, a federal judge, Donavan Frank, has ruled that program is broken and the legislature needs to change it — or else the courts will act.

The message is pretty clear. If the legislature doesn’t take action leading to some of the individuals being released, the court may take action on its own.

Gov. Mark Dayton’s efforts to pave the way for one or two releases last year was met with cries of protest and the release of the offenders was put on hold.

Dan Gustafson, who represents the 700-plus offenders in a class action lawsuit, appeared on WCCO Sunday Morning.

“There is no question that people who have been committed under this program in the state of Minnesota have committed some horrific acts in the past. That really can’t be disputed. The files are what they are, but this is not a situation in this country under our constitution in which we allow preventative detention,” Gustafson said. “If the treatment they have been promised is just a guise for ‘we are going to lock you up and never let you go,’ that is not allowed under our constitution.”

With Dayton and the entire Minnesota House up for reelection, the issue on what to do with the sexual offender program will certainly be a subject of fierce debate during the upcoming legislative session as well as a likely key election issue this fall.

You can watch WCCO Sunday Morning with Esme Murphy and Matt Brickman every Sunday at 6 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.

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