Despite denying an offender’s petition for immediate release, U.S. District Judge Donavan Frank noted that he planned to expedite a class-action challenge of the current sex offender program’s constitutionality.
Frank has been a staunch critic of Minnesota’s current sex offender program for some time. Back in March he issued a 75-page ruling chastising the current system and calling for reform. In his ruling, Frank said the current program had “grave deficiencies” and inmates were left in a purgatory-style state with “no sex-offender-specific treatment whatsoever is provided in Phase I,” which is concerning because “64 percent of Minnesota Sex Offender patients were in Phase I.”
Frank’s opinion of the system hasn’t changed much over the last five months. The class-action suit by the inmates alleges that they are locked up indefinitely with no realistic hope for release, and the statistics show that they may have a point. Of the nearly 700 people who have finished their prison terms and have been transferred to high security sex offender facilities, only one inmate has been given conditional release from the program since 1994.
Frank told attorneys for both sides to come to next Thursday’s pretrial conference with trial dates in mind.
Although Frank said he would expedite the class action lawsuit, he stopped short of granting an inmate’s petition for immediate release. However, that doesn’t mean Frank believes the system has treated the inmate justly.
According to court documents, the inmate, identified as E.T., has been in the program for over a decade for crimes he committed between the ages of 10 and 14. E.T. is now 24 years old, and he said he feels lost in the current system. An expert testified that the inmate never should have been placed in the program, he doesn’t need sex offender treatment, and he doesn’t pose a risk to the public. Frank stopped short of granting immediate release, but upon hearing the testimony he noted that, if not for the class-action lawsuit, E.T. “would likely have languished for years in the prison-like environment of (the state sex offender program at Moose Lake) without any realistic hope of gaining his freedom.”
Prosecutors of the class-action suit expect the trial to begin in September or early October.
Related source: Pioneer Press