- Associated Press - Thursday, April 2, 2015

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Legislators have been unable to agree how to overhaul Minnesota’s sex offender treatment program, leaving it in limbo ahead of a federal judge’s expected ruling on its constitutionality this summer.

The program consists of more than 700 people committed by courts to be confined in facilities for an unspecified amount of time after they get out of prison. Nobody has been fully released from the program in its 20-year history.

Testimony ended in mid-March in a federal class-action lawsuit by the program’s participants. U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank has already said the program can’t go unchanged.

DFL legislators say they should act now to change the program before the state legislature adjourns in mid-May, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports (https://bit.ly/1GjWdTD ). If they wait until after the judge’s ruling, they say they might have to reform the program in a special session this summer.

“They’ve been giving us every warning ahead of time,” said state Rep. Dan Schoen, DFL-St. Paul Park, “and I think that we should at least be discussing what options could come out, what could we end up having to do.”

But Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt says they’ll have time to deal with it after the ruling. He thinks the program is constitutional.

“I don’t believe the court is just going to turn everybody loose. I think we will have time to act,” Daudt said.

Schoen is a co-sponsor of legislation that would make changes to the treatment program, but it hasn’t progressed through the state legislature. Senate-promoted measures to overhaul the program haven’t gained traction in the House.

The Senate judiciary committee chair, Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, said there’s “really no point in us spending our time” on sex offender program reform this year.

“The House isn’t going to take it up at all,” Latz said.

In a February 2014 opinion, Frank called the Minnesota program “one of the most draconian sex offender programs in existence,” saying the system is “clearly broken.” The opinion was issued after a 2011 audit and a 2013 task force recommended making changes to the program.

Former Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Eric Magnuson said if changes aren’t made before the expected ruling, the state is basically ceding control of the sex offender program to the federal court system.

“If the judge tells them to do something that is expensive, and they don’t like it, (it’s) kind of ‘too bad, you had your chance,’” Magnuson said.


Information from: St. Paul Pioneer Press, https://www.twincities.com

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