Dayton: State should repeal judge's decision on Minnesota Sex Offender Program


A federal judge ruled last week that the Minnesota Sex Offender Program is unconstitutional, but Gov. Mark Dayton said Wednesday he believes the program is constitutional and wants the state to appeal the judge's decision. 

Dayton said he is willing to meet in August with Judge Donovan Frank, who found the program does "not pass constitutional scrutiny." The ruling means major changes are likely coming to the MSOP, including the release of hundreds of the state's sex offenders. Dayton has a scheduled trade trip to Mexico in August, but said he would be willing to change his plans to meet with Judge Frank.

Read the complete text of the decision at

Next step

All involved parties will meet on August 10 to decide how to fix the sex offender program. The judge recommends the governor and legislative leaders be in attendance, as well as corrections and human services leaders.

What the program looks like now

MSOP has been the subject of dissent for years because it involves a life sentence at its facilities in Moose Lake and St. Peter once prison sentences have been served. Minnesota has the highest number of civilly committed sex offenders per capita among 20 states that have similar programs. Two of Minnesota's are currently on provisional discharge and under intense supervision.

The class-action lawsuit argued there are offenders who could be freed or transferred to other facilities with less stringent restrictions, but the state contends the program meets all constitutional requirements. In the program's 21-year-history, not one offender has been fully released. To compare, in Wisconsin, they've unconditionally discharged 118 since 1994.

Judge Frank found the program to be a "punitive system that segregates and indefinitely detains" and that "it is undisputed that there are committed individuals who meet the criteria for reduction in custody."

One reason Minnesota is so different is what a state audit found in 2011, which says "Minnesota lacks reasonable alternatives to commitment at a high-security facility." The other reason is that politicians won't touch the sensitive issue.

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