Locked in limbo

How sex offenders are civilly committed in Minnesota

  • Updated: March 23, 2011 - 4:46 PM

 

Under Minnesota law, two categories of sex offenders may be committed:

A "sexual psychopathic personality" is someone who, because of a mental or emotional condition:

1. Engaged in a habitual course of misconduct in sexual matters.

2. Has an utter lack of power to control his or her sexual impulses.

3. As a result, is dangerous to others.

A "sexually dangerous person" is someone who:

1. Engaged in a course of harmful sexual conduct, creating a substantial likelihood of serious physical or emotional harm to someone.

2. Has a sexual, personality or mental disorder

3. Is likely to engage in harmful sexual conduct in the future.

How the commitment process works:

1. As the date of an offender's prison release approaches, or in some cases after he (nearly all are men) has been conditionally released, a Department of Corrections committee and attorney decide whether to recommend civil commitment.

2. Recommendations to commit go to the county attorney who prosecuted the offender criminally. He or she decides whether to petition a court for commitment. The state attorney general's office assists many counties.

3. A petition leads to a trial in which a judge hears testimony from the offender, court-appointed psychologists (including one chosen by the offender, if requested) and others. The offender's attorney can call and cross-examine witnesses.

4. The judge decides whether to provisionally commit the offender for treatment as a sexual psychopathic personality, sexually dangerous person or both. After 60 to 90 days, the judge decides whether to make the commitment indefinite.

5. During treatment, the patient, his attorney or the facility may petition for release to a Special Review Board appointed by the Human Services commissioner. The board's decision may be appealed to a state Supreme Court appeal panel. The panel's decision may be appealed to the state Court of Appeals and state Supreme Court.

Sources: Minnesota Department of Human Services, Department of Corrections, Minnesota statutes, Minnesota Office of the Ombudsman for Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities, various legal journals and studies
  • about this series

  • Inside the Minnesota Sex Offender Program

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