Sex Offender Program Declared Constitutional After Court Reversal
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The latest on a federal appeals court ruling that Minnesota’s sex offender treatment program is constitutional (all times local):
The lead attorney for around 700 people confined in the Minnesota Sex Offender Program says they’re “really disappointed” with a federal appeals court ruling that the program is constitutional, and that they’re considering further appeals.
Dan Gustafson says their options include asking the full 8th Circuit Court of Appeals to review the decision issued by a three-judge panel Tuesday, or taking it to the U.S. Supreme Court. He says they’re not giving up quietly and that he expects a quick decision.
He says a lower court’s 2015 finding that the program was unconstitutional had given plaintiffs some hope that they weren’t just being “warehoused.”
Gustafson says the panel got it wrong when it said the district court should have used a lower standard for determining whether the program violates their due-process rights.
A federal appeals court ruling that says Minnesota’s sex offender program is constitutional is a setback for critics of the program.
That’s according to Eric Janus, a professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Paul and a leading expert on such programs.
Janus says the appellate court decided Tuesday that U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank held the state to too strict a standard in analyzing the program. The appellate justices ordered that he instead apply what’s called the “rational basis” test instead — which Janus says means the state has more leeway in the program’s design.
But Janus says Frank might still find the program unconstitutional under the looser standard. He says the ruling is not a “death knell” for opponents who criticize the program because releases are so rare.
A federal appeals court has reversed a lower court decision that declared Minnesota’s sex offender program unconstitutional because it holds people long after they complete their prison sentences.
A three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday sided with the state and sent the case back to a lower court for further proceedings.
Only a handful of offenders have won provisional releases in the 20-plus-year history of the Minnesota Sex Offender Program. That led U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank in 2015 to declare it unconstitutional and order changes to make it easier for people to get on a path for release.
A lawsuit filed on behalf of more than 700 offenders argued that the program amounts to a life sentence because hardly anyone gets out.