Minnesota is known for its strict dealing with convicted sex offenders. After serving their criminal sentences, those convicted of certain sex crimes face a risk evaluation, which determines the level of danger they present to the public. When evaluations reveal a high possibility of danger, those offenders enter the Minnesota Sex Offenders Program, a treatment regimen of indefinite length.

Residents sue for basic civil rights

In 2011, a class of convicted sex offenders who reside at the program’s facilities filed a civil suit claiming the MSOP violates their constitutional rights. After a lengthy trial, a judge agreed that the program violates their rights to due process. Some of the complaints the residents lodged included:

  • A lack of access to the court system
  • No options for petitioning to be released
  • A lack of routine risk re-assessments
  • The low number of residents who are released from the program

In fact, many people do not realize that about 720 offenders reside behind the walls and fences of the two institutions, and the state has made plans to build more facilities. During the twenty years of the program’s existence, its administration has only released one person unconditionally.

While a U.S. judge agreed that the MSOP violates the Constitutional rights of the inmates, a federal appeals court recently overturned that ruling, saying that the state provides adequate protection of their Constitutional rights. Therefore, the program remains intact and reforms seem even less likely. Those who are waiting for their trial may end up facing some of the circumstances listed above.

Being convicted of a sex crime can mean lifelong penalties, including the possibility of decades behind bars, years in MSOP and a lifetime on the national sex offender registry. While there was controversy over the constitutionality of this system, recent legal suits show that Minnesota’s handling of sex crimes is unlikely to change in the near future.

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