The Commitment laws are often used to place dangerous criminals in secure facilities after they have served their criminal sentence under the guise of treatment. This most often occurs with respect to criminal sexual offenders and crimes such as rape, criminal secual conduct, criminal sexual assault, and child solicitation.
States began to passing commitment laws, also known as sexual predator statutes, in the 1980's. The laws were designed to predict which criminal sexual offenders were likely to recommit their sex crimes. Attempting to predict recidivism among sexual offenders eventually turned on its head the presumption of innocence that most Americans believe they are entitled to by constitution.
Under the laws, states are allowed to seek a civil commitment of certain criminal sexual offenders after they have completed their jail sentence because the "might" reoffend. The commitment lasts until the sexual offender is deemed to no longer be a risk as a sexual predator. The constitutionality of these statutes was challenged in Kansas vs. Hendricks and on June 23, 1997 the U.S. Supreme court handed down a 5 to 4 decision confirming the constitutionality of the statute.
Currently, there are sexual predator statutes in most states including Minnesota and Wisconsin.
The Minnesota Sexual Psychopathic Personality Treatment Center is the facility where Minnesota sexual offenders are sent who have completed their prison sentences yet remain incarcerated under the guise of treatment. In such cases, a Judge has determined that the person suffers from mental disorders that makes it highly likely he/she will repeat their crimes. As a result they are given an indefinite civil commitment until they are deemed no longer dangerous. This commitment, for all intents and purposes, is a life sentence under the guise of a civil commitment proceeding. No person has ever been "cured" in the treatment programs set up to treat sexual disfunction. No patient has ever been released. If a hospital had such a track record, it would undoubtedly be closed.
It has been argued repeatedly that states must repeal their sexual psychopath laws because of skepticism about treatment effectiveness, an inability to predict dangerousness or diagnose sexual psychopathologies according to accepted medical standards, and public opinion that increasingly prefers punishment for sex offenders over treatment. The constitutionality of Minnesota's harsh law was challenged in Court. In January 1994, the Minnesota Supreme Court issued an opinion which upheld the constitutionality of the psychopathic personality statute, stating that the public's right to be protected from people with an "uncontrollable impulse to sexually assault" outweighs individuals' liberty interests. In re Blodgett, 490 N.W.2d 638 (Minn. App. 1992). Since that date, only two people have triumphed in contesting the commitment law in Minnesota.
The decision to commit a sexual offender is generally made in district courts, based on petitions brought by county attorneys. However, in cases where the County attorney has refused to bring such an action, the Attorney General has stepped in to commence commitment proceedings on their own. Under the commitment statute, the court may commit the patient to a secure treatment facility unless the patient establishes by clear and convincing evidence that a less restrictive treatment program is available that is consistent with the patient's treatment needs and the requirements of public safety.
It is important to hire experienced counsel as soon as commitment proceedings are commenced to seek out recognized experts in the field or sexual dysfunction and to formulate a treatment plan that is less restrictive than a commitment to a State facility.
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