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Federal Appeals Court Rules Minnesota's Sex Offender Program Constitutional

January 03, 2017 08:15 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- A new ruling in the fight over the constitutionality of Minnesota's Sex Offender program came down on Tuesday.  A Federal Court of Appeals sided with the state, declaring the program constitutional.

“When we commit somebody like this it’s because they pose a very significant danger to the community,” Olmsted County Attorney Mark Ostrem said.

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Currently, more than 700 sex offenders are confined to inpatient hospitals in St. Peter and Moose Lake.  They were sent there after completing their prison sentences.  In more than 20 years, only a handful have ever been released.

Ostrem was on a task force to make recommendations about the program. He said sex offenders need more than a few years to be reasonably cured.

“I think that’s part of the underlying theme of the whole commitment process is that it’s going to take a lot of time,” Ostrem said. “And for those folks that say ‘no one gets released’ it’s because they haven’t spent enough time.”

In 2015, Judge Donovan Frank ruled the program unconstitutional, giving hope to the more than 700 clients inside MSOP.

"Frank's order finding the program wanting in those protection gave a sense of hope for my clients and that hope has been pulled out from under their feet," said Dan Gustafson, an attorney representing MSOP clients.

Gustafson and the MSOP clients have 90 days to petition their case to the supreme court, which he is considering.

 "As Governor [Mark] Dayton said, 'we're not going quietly into the night.'"

Several clients in MSOP have been released since Judge Frank's decision.  Gustafson said he optimistic that Tuesday's ruling will not slow down that process.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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Elise Romas

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