Changes may be coming to Minnesota’s sex offender treatment program

Reforms may be ahead for Minnesota’s sex offender treatment program, which has drawn criticism for indefinitely detaining convicted offenders.

Sex crime accusations can have lasting negative effects on a person's relationships, job opportunities and more. For people in Burnsville and other parts of Minnesota, the consequences of a conviction for criminal sexual behaviors can be especially severe. Even after serving time, people convicted of these offenses may still face various sanctions and restrictions.

For some convicted offenders in Minnesota, indefinite treatment is one of these long-term consequences. Many alleged offenders have spent years civilly committed under the state's indefinite treatment program, and few offenders are ultimately released. However, if a pending lawsuit is successful, the program could soon be reformed.

Indefinite detention

According to CBS News, critics of the current program contend that it provides no clear route to release. Over the last 21 years, only two of the offenders enrolled in the program have been released back into the community. About 700 offenders remain in the program, and some have been receiving treatment for years.

"Indefinite treatment" may seem to imply a rehabilitative setting that is less restrictive than prison. However, convicted offenders who are receiving treatment under this program are kept in maximum-security facilities. Many of these people are essentially indefinitely detained at these facilities.

Legal challenges

Some of the committed offenders have filed a lawsuit alleging that the program violates their rights to due process. If the program is deemed unconstitutional, lawmakers will be tasked with reforming it. This could lead to a program with fixed deadlines, shorter treatment periods or clearer paths to release.

In response to the lawsuit, state officials have already begun moving more offenders toward supervised release, according to The Star Tribune. As of early March, 57 people had entered the final phase of treatment. Furthermore, the number of convicted offenders in the first stage of treatment fell significantly. In early 2012, 65 percent of offenders remained in this stage, compared to 39 percent at the end of 2014.

This progress suggests that, even if the indefinite treatment program is found constitutional, it may soon offer offenders a better likelihood of release. This could allow more convicted offenders to reenter the community and start rebuilding their lives.

Sex crime consequences

Unfortunately, civil commitment for indefinite treatment is not the only serious long-term consequence of a sex crime conviction. Even after serving time or completing treatment, sex offenders in Minnesota may face various sanctions or restrictions. These include:

  • Mandatory sex offender registration
  • Regular check-ins with law enforcement authorities
  • Strict monitoring after release from prison
  • Other terms of conditional release

These consequences underscore the fact that a sex crime conviction can truly be life-changing. It's important for people facing accusations of these offenses to appreciate the full range of potential consequences.

Anyone who has been charged with a sex crime in Minnesota should consider seeking legal representation. A defense attorney may be able to offer advice on contesting the charges or reducing the long-term effects of a conviction.

Keywords: sex crime, registration, penalties