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The Latest: Dayton: Sex offender program reforms will go on

October 02, 2017 - 11:25 AM

MINNEAPOLIS - The Latest on the U.S. Supreme Court declining to take up a legal challenge to Minnesota's sex offender commitment program (all times local):

1:15 p.m.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton says he plans to continue reforms to the state's civil commitment program for sex offenders.

Dayton issued a statement Monday after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the case, meaning that an appeals court decision declaring the program constitutional will stand.

The Democratic governor says that while the program has been deemed constitutional, it doesn't mean that ongoing reforms will be abandoned. He says the ruling will allow the state to continue reforms rather than operate under a federal directive.

Last session, Dayton proposed $18.4 million in new funding to improve facilities and staffing. He says he is urging lawmakers to join him in funding continued reforms.


12:40 p.m.

The head of Minnesota's Department of Human Services says she's long asserted that the state's civil commitment program for sex offenders is constitutional.

Human Services Commissioner Emily Piper says she's pleased the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up the matter, and that she expects ongoing reforms to the program to continue.

Piper also says she expects to still seek money for less restrictive housing for offenders.

When asked whether it will be a harder sell to get lawmakers to pay for more housing options for offenders now that the court won't be enforcing changes, Piper said: "I expect them to do their job."


10:50 a.m.

An attorney for the more than 700 residents in Minnesota's civil commitment program for sex offenders says he's disappointed that the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the case.

Dan Gustafson had argued that the program was unconstitutional because it amounts to a life sentence and only a handful of people have ever been released in the program's more than 20-year history.

He says Monday's order was a setback to the "administration of justice." He says the ruling means the federal courts are keeping their hands off state decisions to commit sex offenders, and he says that should concern everyone who believes that the federal court system should guard the constitutional rights of people who are oppressed by the state.

He says Minnesota's political leaders could fix the problem, but it's unlikely they will unless they are required to by the court.


9:30 a.m.

An expert on Minnesota's sex offenders program says the U.S. Supreme Court has left a broken system in place by refusing to take up a legal challenge to it.

Eric Janus is a law professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Paul who has testified as an expert against the program. He says he's "very disappointed" by Monday's announcement from the court, and the people of Minnesota should be too.

Janus says the biggest problem of the Minnesota program is the "systemic thwarting" of the principle that people should be released when they can be safely managed in a community.

He says the state has made some small progress under legal pressure to change the program, but that pressure is gone now.


8:55 a.m.

The Supreme Court won't hear a challenge to Minnesota's sex offender civil commitment system, which allows people deemed sexually dangerous to be committed to a treatment facility for an indefinite period of time.

The court's order, which declines to hear the case, came Monday.

According to the sex offenders who brought the lawsuit, more than 700 people are now committed in the state as "sexually dangerous" or a "sexual psychopathic personality." They argued the "fatal flaw" in the scheme is that Minnesota doesn't require a regular review of those cases to see if the individuals should still be held.

Minnesota told the court that offenders can petition for release using a simple-to-obtain form.

News from © The Associated Press, 2017
The Associated Press

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