Federal appeals court rules Minnesota sex offender detention program constitutional

Federal appeals court rules Minnesota sex offender detention program constitutional

The US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Tuesday that a Minnesota program that keeps sex offenders confined to secure facilities after they complete their prison sentences is constitutional and necessary to protect citizens from dangerous predators. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit, more than 700 offenders, argue that the program is essentially a life sentence and that it is almost impossible to progress to a level deemed necessary for release. Only six offenders are currently released from the program after more than 20 years of its enactment. The court stated:

The class plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate that any of the identified actions of the state defendants or arguable shortcomings in the Minnesota Sex Offenders Program were egregious, malicious, or sadistic as is necessary to meet the conscience-shocking standard.

The plaintiffs plan to appeal to the US Supreme Court.

In June a judge for the US District Court for the District of Minnesota [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] that Minnesota’s sex offender program and civil commitment statutes were unconstitutional. In other countries, controversial laws pertaining to the preventative detention of prisoners deemed a threat to public safety have also come under fire. In May rights groups called for reform [JURIST report] of a Kashmir law they allege is being used to detain people despite the absence of sufficient evidence for a trial. Last year the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] unanimously that a federal law allowing for the indefinite detention of mentally ill sex offenders [JURIST report] was constitutional.