States rethink indefinite detention for sex offenders

30 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Federal judge orders prompt review of Minnesota sex offenders.

ST. A federal judge ordered a risk assessment Thursday of all sex offenders in Minnesota’s restrictive civil confinement program to determine which of them can be put on a pathway for release. — Behind razor wire and locked metal doors, hundreds of men waited on a recent morning to be counted, part of the daily routine inside a remote facility here that was built based on a design for a prison.

Paul on Thursday ordered the state to conduct independent risk evaluations of all 720 offenders now confined indefinitely at secure treatment centers in Moose Lake and St. They are being held here indefinitely under a policy known as civil commitment, having been deemed “sexually dangerous” or “sexual psychopathic personalities” by courts. In June, Frank declared the program unconstitutional and called on state leaders to propose reforms or face a “more forceful solution” imposed by the court.

His decision undoubtedly clears the way for an appeal by state officials and lawyers, who argue they are properly holding more than 700 offenders they consider too risky to free, even after they have served their prison terms. Dayton says he’s cognizant of constitutional rights of the mostly male offenders in the sex offender program but notes they committed heinous acts to wind up there. “I don’t want anybody walking the streets of Minnesota or going into a shopping center or anywhere else to be a victim of somebody where that prospective evaluation proved to be incorrect,” the Democratic governor said. In a harshly worded and long-awaited ruling, Frank said the Minnesota Sex Offender Program’s problems are “deeply systemic” and individuals held at MSOP could be safely treated in less-secure facilities in the community. In his ruling, Frank cited the state’s “decades-long history of operating an unconstitutional civil commitment program, the deeply systemic nature of the problems plaguing this state’s sex offender civil commitment scheme, and the minimal progress made toward remedying any constitutional infirmities since the start of this litigation four years ago.” He said he could order further changes later, and that if the state doesn’t comply, he reserves the right to stop new commitments and hold the state in contempt. Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson says the state lacks the money and staff to do evaluations as quickly as Judge Donovan Frank wants and hasn’t lined up the less-restrictive facilities to house many offenders on the verge of release.

He lashed out at the state, saying its “actions and inactions have led to the continued operation of an unconstitutional scheme that unjustifiably detains hundreds of committed individuals.” “If the state is going to choose to confine [offenders], they have to do it in a constitutional manner, and today is the day the judge said, ‘That starts now,’” said Dan Gustafson, the lead attorney for a group of sex offenders who sued the state The state has made incremental changes to the program in recent years, such as moving more offenders to the final phase of treatment and contracting with outside firms that could provide housing and treatment for offenders discharged into the community. During a combative federal trial earlier this year, top administrators of the program admitted they may be detaining untold numbers of offenders who no longer meet the statutory requirement for confinement. While offenders in California, Wisconsin, New Jersey and other states are allowed to re-enter society after completing treatment, no one has been fully discharged in Minnesota. The program costs about $120,000 annually per detainee — and a constitutional problem of effectively creating life sentences for people who have fulfilled their criminal punishment.

Whitmire said. “This at least holds out a pathway to graduate.” Civil commitment gained support in the 1990s amid reports of heinous sex crimes by repeat offenders. New York had sent home 30 people and moved 64 people out of secure facilities for the civilly committed and into strict supervision and treatment, Judge Frank wrote. Minnesota now has the highest population of civilly committed offenders per capita — nearly all men — in the nation, Judge Frank found, and the lowest rate of release.

Mark Dayton, a Democrat, faced intense criticism before his last election over a plan, later dropped, to release from commitment — with strict conditions — a serial rapist who had admitted attacking at least 60 women. In his order on Thursday, Judge Frank said that “political sensitivities” had repeatedly hampered efforts to revamp the policy, and that state officials should urge the Legislature to provide money to make the changes he was requiring, including regular evaluations. Dayton said the state’s program met constitutional requirements, and noted that more people than ever were permitted to leave the facilities under strict supervision. Dayton said. “But there’s a line you need to draw for public safety — and these people, if you look at some of their case files, it’s repeated, horrific crimes that put them in this situation.” “Minnesota’s a compassionate state,” he continued, “but there’s a line you’ve got to draw. At least 43 men have died while committed. “There is a pervasive sense of hopelessness among everybody, knowing that there is no out date and knowing that there is no way to complete anything,” said Mr.

Bolte, who was sent here nine years ago, at age 19, after being convicted as a juvenile of sexually assaulting a family member and later acknowledging sexual contact with other minors during a deeply troubled childhood. Dennis Steiner, a balding man who was civilly committed more than two decades ago in lieu of a prison sentence for molesting boys between ages 8 and 17, said he has done various versions of the state treatment program “about seven times.” He lives in a second state complex in St. Steiner, who wants to move in with his mother, 87, said he would never harm anyone else. “When do you stop proving that to people?” he said. “If I can’t get out on the street and prove it to people, I can’t keep proving it to people in here over and over.”

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