The Minnesota House of Representatives filed an amicus brief Tuesday in the state’s appeal of a judge’s ruling that the state’s Sex Offender Program is unconstitutional.
The brief, which argues the program is constitutional, is a show of bipartisan unity in the face of a June ruling from U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank that the program violates constitutional rights by confining offenders indefinitely even though they have already served their sentences.
Frank ruled that a program designed to treat offenders for their sexual disorders had become punitive in nature, wrongly confining the offenders behind razor wire even when they could be treated in less restrictive community settings such as halfway houses.
The judge gave the state until the end of 2017 to conduct independent risk evaluations of all 720 offenders now confined in the program and to create a road map for release.
The Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals gave the state a victory this month when it ordered a stay until it hears the state’s appeal. Oral arguments are set for April.
Dayton pledges safety
Gov. Mark Dayton has taken a combative stance on the issue. “I will not take any actions that would compromise, to the slightest degree, the safety of the people of Minnesota,” he said in October.
The House amicus brief argues that because the program is designed to protect the public, the Legislature is within its rights. It accused Frank of exceeding his authority and “fail[ing] to provide proper deference to Minnesota’s legislative judgments.”
The House has a keen interest in the outcome of the case because the federal court could impose its own reforms on the program if the Legislature fails to act in response to court rulings.