Minnesota Sex Offender Program trial gets under way

MinnPost photo by Briana Bierschbach

Monday morning saw the start of oral arguments in the federal trial that may determine the future of the troubled Minnesota Sex Offender Program.

In the Star Tribune, Chris Serres sets up what’s at issue:

The case pits the State of Minnesota against a class of convicted sex offenders who argue that the state exceeded its authority and violated their civil rights by keeping them locked away indefinitely in prisonlike treatment centers and by failing to provide adequate treatment and a clear path toward release.

Arguing for the state, Nathan Brennaman said the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP) is constitutional and protects offenders’ rights, in part because it provides them with the right to petition for release through special review boards. He also argued that the facilities at Moose Lake and St Peter provide individualized treatment and are staffed with “caring professionals who are doing the best they can with this difficult population.”

In a preview, MPR’s Tricia Volpe checked in with two men confined in the program, including Nick Bolte, 28, who has been at Moose Lake since 2007:

“I do feel a lot of remorse for those crimes that I’ve committed,” said Bolte, one of the 14 named plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit against the state. “Not everybody here’s the monster that they think is here … I’m not the kid I was when I got locked up 13 years ago.”

But constitutional issues aside, the prospect of the release of large numbers of sex offenders is concerning to some Minnesotans. KSTP interviewed Lori Jenson of Le Center, a community that is host to one of only three people ever released from the program, Robert Jeno.

For some added context, it’s worth taking a look at the explainer MinnPost’s Briana Bierschbach wrote about the embattled program last summer. 

In other news…

Here’s a problem you wouldn’t expect in Duluth: too many cabs. But that’s exactly the case, reports the Duluth News Tribune. The city lifted its hard cap on taxi licenses in 2002, and in recent years the number of cabs has exploded. Where once there were 35, there are now around 150, making cabs more prevalent in Duluth than in, yes, New York City.

Both the Strib and the AP covered the case of a kitten stolen from and later returned (with apology) to a Minneapolis pet store, but the Strib gets the headline award for “Catnapper strikes Mpls. pet store, but returns kitten with note of apology.” “Catnapper.” You guys.

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Comments (10)

  1. Submitted by Pat Berg on 02/09/2015 - 04:28 pm.

    Catnapping?

    Well, they could have gone with the alternative and said the little cat was Kitnapped!

  2. Submitted by Pavel Yankovic on 02/09/2015 - 07:40 pm.

    3 too many.

    Sex offenders are the most likely to re-offend. Keep them where they belong.

    • Submitted by richard owens on 02/10/2015 - 10:23 am.

      Is it constitutional to have a sentence that is indefinite?

      I don’t think the answer is quite so easy as “keep ’em locked up.”.

      The 6 innocents recently exonerated who were on Texas Death Row should make Minnesotans look carefully at the designation “sexual predator” as a kind of death sentence.

      Some of these people were charged with sex crimes for being 18 when they had sex with a minor 16 year-old (a fictitious but illustrative example). They can’t all be the same. The risk of release can’t be the same for every prisoner.

      Rapists with a “likely to re-offend” diagnosis need to be treated differently.

      Still, releasing people with a certainty that they will NOT re-offend isn’t possible.

      Releasing any prisoner, convicted of any violent crime carries the risk they will re-offend.

      A State that discards individual rights for certainty, in a country still running an offshore prison camp, needs to wonder if they still ARE a constitutional republic- no?

      When the Brits refused to extradite a sex-criminal to Minnesota, saying there was no assurance they would receive Due Process, aren’t we supposed to be embarrassed?

    • Submitted by Peter Stark on 02/10/2015 - 11:52 am.

      Care to provide a source?

      According to the Office of Justice Programs in the Bureau of Justice Statistics, Sex Offenders are among the least likely to reoffend within 5 years of their release from prison.

      http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/rprts05p0510.pdf

      Page 8 has the relevant comparisons.

      At 5 years from release for a Rape or Sexual Assault, the cumulative percent of offenders rearrested is 60.3%. This is compared to 76.6% for all types of crimes, 71% for Violent Crimes (of which sex crimes are a subset), 82% for Property crimes, 76% for Drug crimes, and 73.6% for Public Order crimes.

      In fact, at 5 years from release, the recidivism rate for Rape/Sexual Assault offenders is the lowest rate besides those for Homicides and DUIs.

      So, unless you’d like to source your claim, I think you have to concede the point and change your opinion.

      • Submitted by richard owens on 02/10/2015 - 12:47 pm.

        I can’t concede the Constitutional dillema.

        [unless you are talking to Pavel, you may have misunderstood my points.]

        I can’t compare individual cases I know nothing about to your stats.

        Are you saying those high correlations of re-offending sex criminals justify indefinite civil commitment?

        You need that to win that argument in court, not with me.

        I guess the questions is, “Is Civil Commitment actually consistent with Due Process?”
        Is it clearly NOT cruel and unusual punishment?

        It must be proven that Civil Commitment LEGALLY prevents future crimes.
        I think it also needs to be proven that it is NOT punishment for a (possible) future crime.

        I claim no answer to the questions. If you have an answer give it.

        I can see a problem with indefinite incarceration and our Constitutional Rule of Law..

  3. Submitted by Roy Everson on 02/10/2015 - 02:28 am.

    Zzzzzzzz…..

    The catnapping story’s got me drowsy.

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