Is It Okay To Institutionalize Sex Offenders Post-Incarceration?

December 20, 2013  |  

Should it be legal to institutionalize convicted sex offenders, even after they have already served time?

This is the question being posed in a recent legal case in Minnesota. According to various reports, a U.S. District Judge will allow portions of a legal case, which challenges the constitutionality of the state’s controversial sex offender confinement program, to proceed to hearing.

The challenge was brought forth by an attorney representing the 700 sex offenders, who are currently being detained in one of two controversial Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP) rehabilitation centers and feel that their due process is being violated. According to the Associated Press, the plaintiffs in the case, all were civilly committed to one of two high-security treatment facilities after completing prison terms. However, they contend that the prison has failed to provide appropriate treatment to meet its aim of reintroduction into society. And as such, only one offender has been released in the program’s 19 years of operation.

According to an article in the Star Tribune, it was after the tragic 2003 story where a Minnesota college student Dru Sjodin was kidnapped and murdered by a repeat sexual offender, that the state’s Department of Corrections began “recommending more sex offenders for civil commitment.” And not only does Minnesota now confine more sex offenders per capita than any other state but they do so at a cost to taxpayers, which is three times more than keeping offenders in prison.

The Tribune also reports that the attorney representing 700 inmates is requesting that the state release sex offenders to “less restrictive settings” while re-evaluations can be done to determine if the sex offender still poses a risk to society.The judge in the case is said to be reviewing the challenge and the request and make his ruling in 60 days. However state legislatures are concerned that the federal court’s might be overstepping its boundaries, and “imposing costly and dramatic changes” to state laws, which govern how the 700 sex offenders are treated in a state-run program.

And then there is the question of public safety, which I think is likely at the forefront of most folks’ minds. That’s what was certainly at the forefront of my mind. Like for real: who cares about sex-offenders? As far as I’m concerned, they can lock them away forever – says the less sympathetic side of me. However another part of me also wonders: but where’s the due process in that? The Department of Justice’s own study from 1994 shows that sex offenders typically were less likely to be rearrested than non-sex offenders and this is a slippery slope, which could pave the way for permanent institutionalization of other offenders, post incarceration. I want everyone to have equal and fair treatment under the law including due process. And just based upon the reports it is at all possible that Minnesota’s system of sex offender treatment has unintended consequences, which might verge of unconstitutional. I’m not a lawyer, so I don’t know. If you are, or like to play one over the internet, feel free to add some insight in the comment section below.

I think the biggest question here is if these sex offenders, who have been detained to treatment post-incarceration are this dangerous, than why are they being let out of prison in the first place? And why isn’t treatment for incarcerated sex offenders, who are scheduled to be released at some point, not given treatment during their actual prison rehabilitation stay? At the least, it sounds like a colossal waste of the taxpayers’ money.

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