MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A case about the constitutionality of the Minnesota’s sex offender treatment program is heading to federal court.

Attorney Dan Gustafson is representing 24-year-old Eric Terhaar. Both Terhaar and 48-year-old Rhonda Bailey are trying to get released from the program.

Witnesses said in court this week that Terhaar and Bailey are not receiving treatment appropriate to their age, gender and the severity of their conduct. They said the pair could do better receiving treatment in the community rather than at the state’s treatment centers in Moose Lake and St. Peter.

Gustafson said during two days of hearings that Terhaar, who was committed in 2009 because of sexually-aggressive acts he committed between the ages of 10 and 14, should never have been committed.

“It’s actually very unusual,” he said. “Many states don’t allow juveniles who committed acts when they were juveniles to be committed to adult programs.”

The hearing marks a pivotal moment in the broader debate over the constitutionality of Minnesota’s sex offender treatment program, which has successfully discharged just one sex offender in its 19-year history.

Attorneys for a class of sex offenders have sued the State of Minnesota, claiming the program violates their due process rights by failing to provide sex offenders with effective treatment and the opportunity for release.

“You know we are all optimistic that we are going to get a result someday that will someday make the program better,” Gustafson said.

He says the judge could rule the program unconstitutional, but in the end it would be up to the legislature to change the law, allowing more offenders to be released.


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