Civil Rights

Minnesota Sex-Offender Treatment Program is 'Draconian,' Possibly Illegal, Says Judge


Locked gate|||Torbakhopper/Flickr

The rights of Minnesota sex offenders are likely being violated by a "clearly broken" and "draconian" state treatment program writes U.S. District Court Judge Donovan Frank. In a 75-page decision* issued Thursday, Frank told legislators to reform the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP) pronto or the court would intervene.

The MSOP—home to nearly 700 sex offenders—is a court-ordered, post-prison destination of indefinite duration and questionable constitutionality. A suit brought by hundreds of sex offenders claims the program isn't really about "treatment" but detaining and punishing offenders who've completed their prison terms. As of August 2013, MSOP had only released two offenders ever in its 19-year history. 

Frank didn't rule on the merits of their claims, but his decision will allow the constitutional challenge to proceed. He denied the state's motions to dismiss 12 out of 13 claims filed by plaintiffs and called for a panel of court-appointed experts to gather further evidence. "The time for legislative action is now," Frank wrote. 

Gov. Mark Dayton and some lawmakers have, in fact, been trying for legislative action. But their previous efforts to reform MSOP have failed, largely due to Congressional squeamishness.

In a remarkably obtuse statement, Rep. Tony Cornish (R-Vernon Center) admitted that the MSOP violates offenders' civil rights…but also that he doesn't care. "Why would any legislator touch this issue?" Cornish said to the Star Tribune. "Are you that worried about the civil rights of sex offenders? I admit it, I don't have the courage to have a sex offender released in my hometown."

Fortunately, personal cowardice isn't really a sound legal basis for keeping folks locked up indefinitely. It's now up to Minnesota legislators to come up with a path forward or face a federal court ruling that declares the whole business unconstitutional. That could lead to hundreds of sex offenders being released en masse, and something tells me constituents might frown on that a little more than the enactment of a sensible reform policy.

NEXT: Tonight on The Independents: You're on Drugs

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  1. As of August 2013, MSOP had only released two offenders ever in its 19-year history.

    Wow. Is the place is run by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court?

  2. That’s a pretty nondescript gray block. Can anyone actually see the image?

    1. Of course I can. But then only the most intelligent and perceptive commenters are able to see the images on this blog.

      1. Actually, it’s a new technology that blurs images in the brains of sex offenders. darius, I’ve got bad news.

        1. What? But she said she just LOOKED young! DAMN YOU NEOTENY!

    2. The alt-text is pretty nondescript, too.

    3. That’s a pretty nondescript gray block. Can anyone actually see the image?

      Your ISP is filtering CP. l2tor noob.

  3. But their previous efforts to reform MSOP have failed, largely due to Congressional squeamishness.

    Now they have political cover. Of a sort.

    1. Congressional squeamishness

      As opposed to “compelling government interest”?

      1. Po-TAY-to, Po-TAH-to.

  4. I object to the dilution of the term, “draconian.” Draco’s laws weren’t merely harsh, they were FUCKING HARSH. For instance, steal a cabbage, hang. In fact, commit any crime at all, and pretty much die. Debt, slave. You know, all the classics.

    1. What we really need are Dragonian laws. Every crime carries the same penalty.

    2. I’m actually quite interested in Draco’s laws now. Sounds pretty legit.

      Also, GET OFF MY LAWN!

    3. In “Cat’s Cradle”, Kurt Vonnegut wrote of a fictional island called San Lorenzo, where there was only one punishment for any crime: the guilty were impaled through the stomach and hung from a giant hook in the center of town.

      “No fines, no probation, no thirty days in jail. It’s the hook. The hook for stealing, for murder, for arson, for treason, for rape, for being a peeping Tom. Break a law?any damn law at all?and it’s the hook. Everybody can understand that, and San Lorenzo is the best-behaved country in the world.”

    4. Draco get a bad rap, he was merely a scribe. He recorded existing law and took the rap for the severity of those laws.

  5. OT: Ukraine is sliding in to a civil war as we speak.

    Russia has threatened military action in Crimea to protect ethnic Russians and a Russian military base there, multiple reports of Yanukovych fleeing to Kharkiv.

    But here’s the best thing in the world:

    Videos of people pulling down Lenin statues across Ukraine. This NEVER gets old.

    1. Kinda surprised Obama hasn’t intervened on behalf of his idol yet.

      1. Don’t you feel comfy knowing that if WWIII breaks out in Eastern Europe we have President Not My Fault and Uncle Joe currently manning the helm?

        Makes me sleep soundly at night, it does.

        1. Don’t forget about their side kick, Lurch.

          1. “Reporting For duty!”


      2. Ahahahahahaha, oh wow. I know him far too well.

        22.20 AFP reports President Barack Obama has spoken to Russian President Vladimir Putin as Washington pressed for swift implementation of a deal designed to end a Ukraine’s deadly crackdown on anti-government protesters.

  6. I say off with their heads already!

    1. So true, anonbot. So true.

  7. We really aren’t that far off from being the PRNK. We’re closer than you might think. Once you can think of any reason to indefinitely detain people after their sentence has already been served, and cops have turned into state appointed thugs with no accountability who beat and kill citizens at will, you aren’t far away from people disappearing routinely.

    But on the bright side, the USA is now getting their very own cute little favelas, in Obamabalmerville.


    1. BTW, these aren’t only out in the woods. There is one of these right across the street from the Baltimore City Jail at the bottom of the on ramp to the JFX. I drive by it every day on the way home from work. It seems to be expanding lately.

    2. Dude, we’re a long fucking way from being North Korea, stating such just makes you look, well, retarded.

  8. If there is any hope for this country to not slide into an authoritarian abyss this lawsuit can only end one way, and that way is not American gulags.

  9. All we need is some mentally-dead Cossacks with their shit-eating mustaches beating the poop stains out of the offenders until they expire eventually in the prisons. That should relieve the Minnesota politician garbage.

  10. So what do you do with people who are mentally ill and will re-offend?

    I’ll admit I’m completely troubled by the idea of the government being able to involuntarily commit people. However, there are some people in this program who really do deserve to be locked up forever.

    Here is one of the people who they were considering for release.

    I really don’t have an answer. I don’t want the government to have the power to lock people up with no recourse. There are people who are sick and will cause a lot of grief if they are let out.

    The biggest problem here in Sunny Minnesota is that everyone is so afraid of letting out a real bad guy that they don’t let out anyone.

    1. Rape as described in that story should be executed.

    2. Likelihood to re-offend should be part of the sentencing phase and factored in accordingly.

      Of course then you’d have Reason storming the Bastille over draconian sentencing for sex offenders. But if you really do think letting these people out at any point in the future is a mistake, give them sentences that reflect that.

      1. Yeah, what he said.

    3. I think the solution is to have the actual sentences you want. If you want life in prison for rape or child molestation, then have the balls to get that at the beginning instead of trying to back door it.

      1. This.

      2. I agree that that would be a good solution. My only concern with that is that you will eventually get the same problem, just at the sentencing phase.

        Judges and prosecutors will start putting any rapist and or child molester in prison for life. That will include those who engaged in date rape while drunk, or had sex with a 16 year old.

        Again it will be because no one wants to be the guy who didn’t put a guy away for life and have him re-offend.

        1. You know , there was a time when mandatory minimums for drug crimes were an unthinkable 3rd rail of criminal justice politics.

          When the people in power make very clear abuses, there will be a public backlash that forms.

    4. “his last offense was raping a woman at knifepoint in front of her children in 1979….. Rydberg said he’s no danger but remembers about 94 victims, with offenses ranging from peeping to violent assaults. He admitted he has harmed a lot of people over the years and still struggles with his sexual feelings.

      “What can I say? I’m a work in progress,” Rydberg said, adding that he still makes mistakes. “I’m trying to build a relapse prevention plan to ensure that I never hurt anyone again.””

      Sounds safe to release to me!

      1. 69 years old. Again, if they wanted to put him away for life they probably should have a) sought that sentence for one of his crimes or b) prosecuted more of his 94 offenses.

        1. b) prosecuted more of his 94 offenses.

          somebody dig up who the DA was, so when he runs for office Reason can point out that he’s soft on crime. RAPEY crime.

          1. “runs for office” should probably read “runs for re-election”

          2. Considering the age, I wouldn’t be surprised if this guy outlived the prosecutors.

    5. “Wherein lies the conflict, sir? Killing a man may be necessary, but confining him is an offense against his integrity — and your own.” — Jubal Harshaw in Stranger in a Strange Land

  11. “In a remarkably obtuse statement, Rep. Tony Cornish (R-Vernon Center) admitted that the MSOP violates offenders’ civil rights…but also that he doesn’t care. “Why would any legislator touch this issue?” Cornish said to the Star Tribune. “Are you that worried about the civil rights of sex offenders? I admit it, I don’t have the courage to have a sex offender released in my hometown.””

    Sound pretty astute to me.

  12. Exactly, it wasn’t obtuse, it was especially candid.

  13. If Minnesotans would just elect Jesse Ventura to be their governor he’d put a stop to the abusive MSOP! He’s libertarian!

  14. Right. Quote the minority party in this case as they clearly are the cause of the problem. Last time I checked Team Blue controlled both the legislature and the state house. Of course they had more important things to do like give the teacher’s union more money and make taxes “fairer.”

    1. Team Red had both houses just an election ago. They could have reformed this if they wanted to.

      But they had a Vikings stadium to subsidize.

  15. Hoo boy. If you ever doubted the premise of “tyranny of the majority”, just read the comments in that first link.

    Look, I’m all for locking up the sexual savages as much as anyone else, but when you lead the nation in corraled sex offenders who already served their time, you can’t help but think there’s a lot of those “slipped-through-the-cracks” types, that got a raw deal for stuff like peeing in a park bush, consensual sex with a 16-year-old when they were 17, etc. Tighten the sentencing, and continue monitoring those out of prison, giving them greater mobility. (You can always give them a “one-more-strike-and-you’re-out” rule for them to contemplate.)

  16. I despise state power but…when it comes to the Jerry Sandusky’s of the world, FUCK THEM. KILL THEM. The faster and most brutal the better

    1. Lights the Plopper signal…

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