Should sex offenders who have served their sentences be forced into unending treatment programs? The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals says it’s okay.
A federal appeals court in Saint Louis has declared that Minnesota’s sex offender treatment program is constitutional — handing a major victory to the state but potentially derailing long-awaited reforms to its system of indefinite detention for sex offenders.
In a decision released Tuesday, a three-judge panel of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower-court ruling and found that Minnesota’s system of committing sex offenders beyond their prison terms serves a “legitimate interest” in protecting citizens from dangerous sexual predators.
The ruling is a major setback for civil rights attorneys and a host of lawmakers who have spent much of the past five years pressing for reforms that would put offenders on a faster path toward release from the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP). The appellate panel essentially has given Minnesota’s program a clean bill of health, relieving immediate pressure on state officials to make major reforms to a program that has long been criticized as inhumane.