SAINT PAUL, Minn. – The Minnesota Sex Offender Commitment Advisory Task Force addressed a group of state legislators on Wednesday. Chair Eric Magnuson, former Supreme Court Justice, spoke to a joint meeting of the Senate Heath and Human Services and Judiciary Committees.
Magnuson told the Committee that the Task Force believes that politics should be kept out of decisions involving civil commitments and releases. He said a panel of retired judges should make the decisions, "insulated" from local pressure.
"We have great faith in the judges of Minnesota," said Magnuson. "They work hard. They take their job seriously, but they may not see many of these cases."
Magnuson said a panel of experts on the science of sex offender treatments should be created to advise the retired judges, but not make any final decisions on individuals.
He said the task force report offered "What changes, in either procedure or law, the Legislature should contemplate so that someone does not receive what today has become a defacto life sentence when they are civilly committed. People simply do not get out."
Currently, there are 698 persons in the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP) and a number of them are juveniles. Magnuson said the Task Force was "very concerned" about juveniles in the system.
"We felt that it was very important to recommend that no one should be civilly committed solely on conduct that occurred while that person was a juvenile," said Magnuson.
Magnuson and the committee are conscious of the fact that there is a lawsuit before Judge Donovan Frank in Federal Court challenging Minnesota's Sex Offender commitment program. The lawsuit contends that the commitments are unconstitutional.
It is not know when Judge Frank will rule or if he might order those committed to be released immediately.
"It cannot be that no one should ever be released, or if that is what it is, then we should say that right up front," said Magnuson.