Minnesota’s bid to delay dramatic court-ordered reforms in its controversial sex offender program has been rejected by a federal judge.

The decision, handed down Monday by U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank, means the state must promptly evaluate hundreds of sex offenders detained at the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP) and release those who no longer meet the legal criteria for confinement.

The state must also ensure that there are less-restrictive treatment alternatives in the community for those being released, according to an October court order.

In his ruling, Frank dismissed the state’s contention that moving forward with such changes would jeopardize public safety, saying the state “failed to articulate in sufficient detail” the safety risks.

“The court’s order simply requires [the state] to establish a system through which individuals who are assessed to no longer pose a safety risk may be promptly transferred to a less-restrictive alternative … or released into the community with proper transitional services,” Frank wrote.

However, late Monday afternoon, the state filed another motion for a temporary stay of the reforms during the consideration of an appeal before the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. The state has argued that the court-mandated reforms are unrealistic, dangerous and expensive, costing in the tens of millions of dollars.

In June, after a four-year legal battle, Frank ruled that the MSOP violates the U.S. Constitution by unjustifiably detaining hundreds of individuals without giving them regular risk evaluations, access to the courts and other due process protections. He gave the state until the end of 2017 to conduct independent risk evaluations of all 720 offenders now confined in the program.


Twitter: @chrisserres