Constitutionality of MSOP at center of federal hearing

By KBJR News 1

December 18, 2013 Updated Dec 18, 2013 at 11:58 PM CDT

Minneapolis, MN (NNCNOW.com) - Clients of the Minnesota Sex Offender program listened via telephone as arguments were made to Judge Donovan Frank Wednesday.

Lawyers representing the men in the treatment program argued that people being held indefinitely in prison like settings is unconstitutional.

"The decisions made by MSOP are based on security of the public first and treatment second and so what we need to have is where treatment takes an equal role with security if not a primary role so these people can be treated and released," said Dan Gustafson, the attorney for the plaintiffs.

State lawyers, defending the sex offender program, declined an on camera interview, but argued that the plaintiffs did not have sufficient information to make their case.

To date, MSOP has housed 700 sex offenders.Only one man has been successfully discharged from the treatment program

Plaintiffs said they would like the entire program re-evaluated with independent experts.

They would also like less restrictive treatment facilities that focus more on treating the residents and getting them released.

Judge Frank plans to tour the MSOP facilities in Moose Lake and St. Peter in order to be better informed about the environments.

"What this means to me is the fact that judge Frank indicates he's going to look at every one of the 698 individuals and he's gonna pay close scrutiny to this program, I'm excited."said Tom Evenstad, a MSOP Activist and former resident.

The Judge says he will rule on the motions pending before the court, including the constitutionality of the civil commitment program, within 60 days.

Both sides also remain engaged in settlement talks.

Conclusions could not be drawn from discussions between the two parties. The judge encouraged those talks to continue.

Bryce Henry