The court-mandated Sex Offender Civil Commitment Advisory Task Force held its initial meeting on Thursday morning at the State Office Building. Former Chief Justice Eric Magnuson is chairing the 20-member panel, which resulted from a federal class-action lawsuit challenging the terms of confinement for more more than 650 individuals indefinitely committed to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program.
The task force is charged with submitting its initial findings by December 3. Specifically a court order directed it to come up with recommendations for “less restrictive alternatives” to civil commitment.
Magnuson pointed out that the deadline is rapidly approaching and that it may be necessary to ask the court for additional time. “If there is change on the horizon, the court might not feel compelled to act,” Magnuson said, of the threat of further judicial intervention. “We’re going to do something. We’re going to come up with some recommendations.”
Minnesota has the highest level of civilly committed sex offenders in the country. Only one individual has been provisionally discharged in roughly two decades. Last week PIM published an in-depth article about the fact that 52 of those individuals have no adult criminal convictions. They were referred for civil commitment after aging out of the juvenile justice system.
DFL state Rep. Tina Liebling, of Rochester, one of four legislators on the panel, underscored the need for changes in the MSOP. “The reason we’re all here is because a federal judge is holding a stick over us,” Liebling said. “I think the public really needs to understand that.”