Sunday, August 16, 2015

New York Times: Sex Offenders Locked Up on a Hunch

 From Prison to Civil Commitment, Swapping Bars for Barbed Wire

Sex Offenders Locked Up on a Hunch, August 15, 2015
NY Times Editorial Board

The essence of the American criminal justice system is reactive, not predictive: You are punished for the crime you committed. You can’t be punished simply because you might commit one someday. You certainly can’t be held indefinitely to prevent that possibility. 

And yet that is exactly what is happening to about 5,000 people convicted of sex crimes around the country. This population, which nearly doubled in the last decade, has completed prison sentences but remains held in what is deceptively called civil commitment — the practice of keeping someone locked up in an institution for months, years or even decades for the purpose of preventing possible future offenses. 

The authorities have the power to detain people with mental illnesses or disorders who cannot function independently, or who pose a danger to themselves or others. But since the early 1990s, this power has been used increasingly to imprison one distinct group: sex offenders.

Gail Rosenblum: How About Treating Sex Offenders like Humans?

How about treating sex offenders like humans?  August 15, 2015
Many Minnesotans wonder if, finally, it’s safe to dream that a loved one will be released from the embattled Minnesota Sex Offender Program.
By Gail Rosenblum

Dee knows that Gov. Mark Dayton can’t make time to see her son, who’s now in his 30s and has been housed since 2012 in the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP) at Moose Lake. So she sent the governor a photograph. 

In it, her son wears a dark suit and light pink shirt. His full head of brown hair sweeps to the left with a slight curl. He wears a red tie and a jubilant smile. 

He is 4 years old. 

“I need to make [the governor] say, ‘My God, we need to save this little boy,’” said Dee, who asked that only her first name be used. “He’s not only a perpetrator locked up in Moose Lake. Emotionally, he’s also still a little boy, who was a victim first.” 

Dee is one of many Minnesotans wondering if, finally, it’s safe to dream that a loved one will be released from the embattled program. 

On Monday, more than a dozen Minnesota legislators and other state officials gathered behind closed doors (drawing media protests) to discuss more workable options for treating offenders. Those options include re-evaluating current residents, more frequent assessments of their progress and less restrictive facilities for those deemed no longer a danger. 

Of nearly 700 “clients,” only three have transitioned out of the 21-year-old program. A fourth moves out in September. That Hotel California-esque reality has led to a class-action lawsuit. 

Judge Donovan Frank has made it clear that if stakeholders don’t act within coming months, he will.