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Unlimited detention for sex criminals ruled constitutional

A federal appeals court overruled a lower court ruling which invalidated the Minnesota civil detention program for sex offenders. The program was challenged as unconstitutional because it held people beyond the length of their imposed prison sentence. But, the appeals court disagreed and determined that the state, Minnesota, had an important public purpose in detaining sex offenders.

The danger with this ruling is that it opens the possibility that other states will mimic Minnesota’s expansive civil detention programs. In a few years, it is possible that indefinite detention for sex offenders’ programs will spring up in multiple states. Most states already have some version of civil detention.

But the critical difference between those programs and Minnesota’s is the scope and duration of the programs. Many people are familiar with the “psychiatric” hold that television shows popularize as one tool among many for the police. The crux of these temporary detentions is that a person needs immediate help or they will hurt themselves or someone else. The psychiatric hold usually does not last longer than a few days, after which they are free to leave.

The Minnesota program is ostensibly organized as a system designed to help sex offenders. The detainees are treated with medication, receive counseling, enroll in class, and other programs designed to “fix” or at the very least “reform” them. Unfortunately, there is no scientific solution to cure someone from pedophilia or other sex urges. In fact, there isn’t even a consensus on how to judge if a person is truly “cured.”

Nominally, detainees are released once they are no longer a danger to society. But, when the state seeks to cure something that is incurable and ties your freedom to being “cured” the result is indefinite detention.

As this story illustrates, sex crimes are far-reaching., even if you believe that your public indecency or pornography-based charge isn’t serious, it is. Many additional punishments can be levied against people convicted of sex crimes. If you are charged with a crime, you may want to contact a defense attorney as soon as possible.

Source: Star Tribune, “Appellate court affirms constitutionality of Minnesota's sex-offender program,” Chris Serres, January 4, 2016

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