Attorney: No money not a defense to run sex offender program as is

Minnesota’s sex offender program returned to federal court on Wednesday before Judge Donovan Frank, an attorney asking for milder sanctions for a group of men stuck in the program. Frank ruled in June it does "not pass constitutional scrutiny."

Lawyers have expressed dissent over the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP) for many years because it involves a life sentence at its facilities in Moose Lake and St. Peter once prison sentences have been served. Not one offender has been fully released in the program’s 21-year history. 

Attorney Dan Gustafson is representing a group of sex offenders who sued the state, and said MSOP is in violation of their constitutional rights by keeping them in the program for life without appropriate therapy. Those who oppose keeping the program as is argue it would cost too much to change, but Gustafson argued "no money is not a defense."

Minnesota has the highest number of civilly committed sex offenders per capita among 20 states that have similar programs – more than 700. Two of Minnesota's are currently on provisional discharge and under intense supervision.

In June, 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."

He said Wednesday he'd make a ruling within 30 days.