CIVIL COMMITMENT MINNESOTA STYLE
CIVIL COMMITMENT MINNESOTA STYLE
A prison by any other name is still a prison as long as those who are confined inside are not free to pursue their God…
A prison by any other name is still a prison as long as those who are confined inside are not free to pursue their God given rights as stated in the United States of America Constitution and Bill of Rights.
As Americans the Bill of Rights provides these freedoms among the ten:
- Freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures.
- Freedom from cruel and unusual punishment.
- Freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition.
- Right to due process of law and double jeopardy.
These rights are totally ignored for people convicted of a sexual offense and who are free men with the completion of a court ordered sentence. Where in the Constitution or Bill of Rights is there permission to sentence a person to an indefinite incarceration for a crime not yet committed?
Over forty-six years ago, the idea of a “sex offender” was an invalid conception. In the almost half-century since the only change has been that a cottage industry has developed and grown around the principle “sex offender treatment”. It feeds off the criminal justice system and the mushrooming Treatment Industrial Complex.
Minnesota has a dirty little secret. In Moose Lake there is a high-security facility surrounded by fences topped with razor wire, out of sight, and definitely not in the minds of the citizens of the State of Minnesota. Some inside of these walls have completed prison sentences while others are yet to be charged with a crime. This is only one of two state-run facilities.
This secret is not Minnesota’s alone. There are 19 other states operating in the same style of hiding away civil commitment centers.
Washington and Minnesota along with programs of a similar nature paved the way after a rash of state laws passed in the 1990s, because of an increase of hysteria and fear from society, as an aftermath of emotional outbursts of several heinous sex crimes.
In the case of a civil commitment in Minnesota, the court orders a person into treatment based on mental health concerns. Two of the six reasons for mental health concerns are
- Sexual Psychopathic Personalities (SPP) — Persons who have an utter lack of power to control their sexual impulses as the result of a mental disorder and therefore pose a danger to the public; and
- Sexually Dangerous Persons (SDP) — Persons who have a mental disorder who have engaged in and are likely to continue to engage in harmful sexual conduct.
The Moose Lake facility was opened in 1995 after the state revised the laws and expanded the use of civil commitment. This was done to provide “treatment to people who were committed as sexually dangerous persons or sexual psychopathic personalities,
After an individual has served the court ordered prison sentence, a civil court the hears the same evidence presented at the original trial. The original trial found the person competent to stand trial and without any “so-called behavior abnormality or mental health problems”. The state prosecutors now add allegations and testimony from shopped paid experts who will state the person’s potential to commit future crimes. Wonder if they hide the tarot cards and/or crystal ball in their pocket while testifying? All of society would live so much better if we each had the same crystal ball to direct our lives.
Once the former inmate is convicted, his title changes to “client” and he is now having to serve an indeterminate (life) sentence. It is illegal in any state to hold someone beyond the length of their court ordered prison sentences. States get around this by calling these units treatment centers rather than admit they are a prison. The housing buildings are usually secured facilities with razor wire, guards, room searches, and monitored calls and mail call.
The commissioner of Minnesota’s Department of Human Services, Emily Piper, stated that only 4 percent of sex offenders in Minnesota are civilly committed. The Department of Human Services are in charge of overseeing the state’s sex offender program. As in the other civil commitment states, these despicable places are supported by taxpayer’s dollars and any funding that can be drained from the families and supporters of the incarcerated. There are few who can afford to be almost total support for their loved ones and more who have limited income or fixed incomes. It is always the goal of most parents and loved ones to be able to support their families in the best way possible wherever they may have to reside.
From an article written by a “client,” Inside Minnesota’s Contested Sex Offender Program by Matthew Feeney, May 24,2022, “Because they are required to provide treatment, the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP) appears to invent new class material, including “Cinema Therapy,” during which clients watched “Tom & Jerry” cartoons. They call prison yard and recreational time “therapeutic hours” and toilet scrubbing “vocational training.” This type of therapeutic treatment is not uncommon.
As with other states’ civil commitment programs, the goal of the program is to provide a mental health treatment to the offenders, and to release those who are deemed ready for life on the outside.
Only 4 percent of Minnesota’s sex offenders are civilly committed. Photo by William Brangham
In the last two decades, no one has ever been fully released. More than 40 have died while in commitment. The oldest man here is 94, and several are older than 70.
This type of situation exists at other civil commitment centers. It is true that men leave the unit, but they are released on conditional release. This is not a release from the civil commitment program and any violation, technical or otherwise, can force the person back into confined incarceration.
There are also more than 60 men living here who are locked up for crimes they committed as juveniles, meaning they do not have any offenses on their adult records.
According to Elizabeth Letourneau, who runs the Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse at John Hopkins University, the cost for supporting these individuals is approximately $125,000 per year, per offender. There are over 700 men in civil commitment. That is triple the cost of what is spent by the state to lock up someone in a regular prison. These statistics are from June 28, 2016, PBS NewsHour.
MINNESOTA LEGISLATURE’S RESPONSE
Despite the lowest recidivism rate of any group of offenders, the stigma that follows an individual convicted of child molestation and other sex offenses still looms large in Minnesota. In response to news of Opheim’s release, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton proposed a change to the state’s sex offender release notification system. The law previously required notification when a sex offender moved into a community, but not into a halfway house. The state legislature voted 127–1 to expand the notification to include any “residence facility.” In Texas inside the county housing the Texas Civil Commitment Center, each resident is listed on the Lamb County Sex Offender Registry although they are confined in the prison.
Minnesota’s prosecutors and legislature brag about their success of sending offenders to civil commitment. They claim that their success rate is at least 67 percent.
The media along with the blessings of the judicial system and society have let the fear of the sex offenders, a minority that is despised and feared by Society and that includes many people who pose no real danger to their fellow citizens trump traditional concerns about due process and just punishment. Bringing these cases into the open and asking for another hearing is at this time, the best possible means to undo the damage done.
An example of the abuse by the Judicial System of Virginia can best be describe in the case of Baughman v. Commonwealth. Found on the website of Just Future Projects is the following abbreviated version:
Victory in Supreme Court of Virginia against out-of-control prosecution
Justices declare effort targeting leading advocate illegal, ending 5-year court battle
On Thursday, the highest court in Virginia ended the Commonwealth’s 13-year campaign to indefinitely detain a prominent advocate on criminal justice matters, Galen Baughman. In a victory for justice the Supreme Court ruled that the petition filed against Baughman in 2017 was illegal. Baughman v. Commonwealth
Outrage Against Injustice
Virginia legislator Patrick Hope (D–Arlington) described the situation in an op-ed published immediately before Baughman’s second trial in 2019: “The [Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS)]-hired psychologist found Baughman did not meet the criteria and recommended his release. The attorney general’s office ignored that finding, went outside the law and hired a second expert. This expert did not interview Baughman, but nonetheless claims that Baughman meets the statutory criteria. At trial, Baughman’s defense attorneys may not present the results of the 2012 civil commitment trial or the results of the DBHDS psychological assessment, nor can they present qualified psychological expert testimony. His trial… serves as a prime example of how the SVP laws are unjust and unfair.”
As long as the judicial system, legislatures, and society are accepting of any medical diagnosis by a person engaged in treating sex offenders as gospel, the basis of new laws there will be aberrations such as Civil Commitment existing. It has been shown that the psychiatrist and psychologist, (mental health community) are not in total agreement concerning the mental illness of persons convicted of a sex offense(s). If these medical professionals are at odds with each other how can we accept their word as the only way to treat a sex offender and write laws according to their evaluations? Even in the medical community patients are encouraged to seek a second or more opinions when they are not happy with a diagnosis or prognosis. Yet, we as a public and society are eager to accept any solution that quells our own personal bias, hatred, and fears. Until people can speak openly and fairly about sexual offenses, we are the PREDATORS. Predators anxiously grabbing up anyone who has committed a sexual offense, alleged to have committed an offense of a sexual nature at any time in their past, to lock them away from everyone and everything that keeps their heart beating. To add to isolation, these people must accept and endure in-house abuse, physical and/or psychological and the trauma instilled from such inflictions. These people are humans and not some disposable unit to throw away. Who is watching the watchers?
When will the awakening begin and we see the light of the evil of abusing any class of people regardless of race, color, creed, religion, or crime? What has happened to the American belief in second chances for all? Are second chances now in the same category as justice? Justice is for those who can afford it. As taxpayers, do we really think that locking away certain types of people indefinitely will make us safer? Everyday crimes of a heinous, despicable and pain inducing nature are occurring on our streets while we hold people in incarceration that by law are supposed to be free men who could be building a productive life as citizens of a democratic nation. Could our tax dollars not be better spent educating our children in what is a normal feeling, who to tell when something horrendous happens to them, how to know who they can trust, treating them when they become traumatized and treating those that with true mental health problems who are seeking help? Wouldn’t it be better to teach everyone that humans are people not a set of labels? Just as the men who committed crimes and created victims, they are now the victims of a flawed system with abusive guards, and medical neglect. When does justice, equality, fairness, and treat others as you would be treated begin? Are Americans so devoid of love for their fellow man and is kindness relegated to a sink hole so deep it can’t be recovered?
Thank you for reading my blog and I look forward to doing a blog on all 20 states with civil commitment laws and centers with a hopeless future.
I encourage readers to donate to this website as I would be but a voice in the wilderness and possibly going unheard.