Court rules Minnesota civil commitment program is constitutional

A federal appeals court has overturned a lower court decision in ruling that Minnesota’s sex offender civil commitment program is constitutional. Judge Donovan Frank ruled against the program in 2015.

The appeals court ruled that Frank erred in finding the program unconstitutional, saying he held the state to an overly high standard when he declared the program shocked the conscience. The panel concluded that the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate that any of the state’s actions or shortcomings in the program “were egregious, malicious, or sadistic as is necessary to meet the conscience-shocking standard.”Dan Gustafson, lead attorney for the plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit, said they’re “really disappointed” and are considering an appeal to either the full 8th Circuit or to the U.S. Supreme Court. He said Frank’s ruling had given them some hope that they weren’t just being “warehoused.”

More than 700 people are confined under the program. In 20 years, just one person has been released from civil commitment in Minnesota.

Read more here and here.

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