MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A federal judge overseeing a lawsuit that claims the Minnesota Sex Offender Program is unconstitutional has ordered the state to show why one man should not be “immediately and unconditionally” released, after experts said there is little evidence to suggest he is a risk.
It is believed to be the first time experts have recommended that anyone in the state’s sex offender treatment program be freed since U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank appointed the panel to evaluate whether patients are receiving appropriate treatment.
According to Frank’s ruling, the experts unanimously recommended on May 18 that the patient should be released. The experts’ report is under seal, but Frank cites it throughout his order.
The experts found that the patient, whom Frank identifies as E.T., was committed to MSOP at age 19 due the sex offenses he committed between the ages of 10 and 14, and has no adult criminal history. It appears he completed sex offender treatment before he was placed at MSOP and it is “unlikely that he requires additional intervention in this regard,” the experts found.
Frank’s order did not elaborate on details of the patient’s case, including how long he has been in the program.
Frank wrote in an order filed earlier this week that the state must show why E.T.’s “continued confinement is not unconstitutional and why (he) should not be immediately and unconditionally discharged from MSOP, as unanimously recommended by the experts.”
The Department of Human Services said in a statement that it intends to file legal briefs next week that will show why the client should stay in the program and why his continued treatment is constitutional. A hearing is set for June 25.
The ruling is the latest development in a class-action lawsuit filed in 2011 on behalf of offenders in the program. It claims the MSOP is unconstitutional because it keeps sex offenders locked up indefinitely after they complete their prison sentences. Nearly 700 sex offenders have been civilly committed to high-security facilities in Moose Lake or St. Peter after their prison terms were completed.
Attorneys for residents argue the program amounts to a life sentence; only one patient has been successfully released, with provisions, since 1994.
“I think this is an important development in the case because it is now putting in the record some evidence of the allegations that we made in our complaint,” plaintiffs’ attorney Dan Gustafson said of the judge’s order.
Frank said the experts found it is likely that E.T.’s “history of general delinquency” contributed to his commitment, and that there’s reason to believe his sexual offenses were influenced by his own history of sexual victimization and inability to cope, and exacerbated by his ADHD.
“Overall, there is little evidence to suggest that (E.T.) is a dangerous sexual offender who poses a significant risk to public safety,” the experts found.
To support their conclusion, Frank said, the experts pointed to risk assessments for juveniles. They found sex offenses committed by juveniles are linked more to developmental issues than to deviance, and that juvenile offenders have a low rate of reoffending as adults.
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