Listen to the full show below.
By Andy Driscoll
Minnesota’s Sex Offender policy has mushroomed into a full-fledged Constitutional crisis, if recent developments and about twenty years or more of political ping-pong are any indication. No crime – even murder without sex attached – strikes as heavy a cord in the dissonant upheaval over just what society should do about sex offenders – especially AFTER they’ve served their sentences.
There’s something extra violative and victimizing about sex offenses, it seems, and, if a killing occurs in connection with a sex violation, ripples of revenge often dictate the fate of the offender and the victim’s family understandably wants every book published thrown at that offender and every other offender who has ever been dragged through a courtroom.
Currently, Minnesota’s approach to all this is to find some way to hide these men – mostly men , of course, and labeled Level Three offenders meaning at highest risk among others to re-offend – away in some dark hole of obscurity – by instituting civil commitment procedures – almost always successful and with little or no legal representation accorded the offender – to put them back into a prison-like setting, either up north at Moose Lake Correctional Facility or south in St. Peter State Hospital’s Criminal Wing.
But, if these offenders have served their prison time, where in the Constitution does it allow that their further incarceration or imprisonment is actually anything but double jeopardy – forbidden by this nation’s rule of law. Our system of laws does not allow imprisonment based on a presumption that crime may be committed in the future. That’s because we have no assurance, no evidence whatsoever, that a US resident is going to commit a crime. Any assumption along that line is pure speculation and taking a person’s freedom away is Constitutionally verboten.
But, it’s happening anyway, and some courts have upheld what blatantly appears to be unconstitutional incarceration. Besides – this paranoia over sex offenses was born of just a few, highly visible and highly volatile sex crimes that led to the victims’ deaths, not at all based on the real numbers or the real facts surrounding most sex offenses, disgusting though they may be for all of us. Remember all the priests who, for generations and hundreds of years have been offending without real justice meted out. And, yet, even those offenses are not among the vast majority of sex crimes committed, admitted, punished and forgotten. In other words – most sex offenders know their victims and most offenders do not re-offend after serving their time behind bars or on probation.
And, yet, the treatment of sex offenders has become political blood sport for some segments of society and the legislature.
For those working within the system it’s a conundrum of major proportions. What to do with these guys? Can they ever be free? Do they deserve to be? What person who has served their time or paid their debt to society after conviction and imprisonment deserves to be automatically returned to custody simply because someone is afraid of the possibility of future behavior? You’ve heard of the police state? One of our guests calls this the Preventive State when we put people away anticipating bad behavior that may never occur. And how do victims and victim representatives look at this? What about those forced by law to sit in judgment and decide such fates?
Join TTT’s ANDY DRISCOLL and MICHELLE ALIMORADI as we cover most of those bases and more in exploring the raging ethical dilemma and Constitutional questions around post-incarceration civil commitment of sex offenders – and only sex offenders. We talk with five of those players who confront the reality of Minnesota’s system and the dicey descriptions and dispositions Minnesota law levels against offenders who have been released.
DENNIS BENSON – CEO, MN Sex Offender Program (MSOP) (PDF), MN Department of Human Services
JOSEFINA COLOND, PhD – Psychologist and Chair, MSOP Review Board
DONNA DUNN – Executive Director, Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MNCASA)
MIKE FREEMAN - Hennepin County Attorney
ERIC JANUS – President and Dean, William Mitchell College of Law; Civil Commitment scholar; Author, “The Preventive State, Terrorists and Sexual Predators”; "Closing Pandora's Box: Sexual Predators and the Politics of Sexual Violence"; Many others
FULL SHOW (OVER 1 HOUR)