On December 21, 2011, patients who were civilly committed to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program filed a pro se federal lawsuit in the District of Minnesota against the Minnesota Department of Health & Human Services and the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP]. Plaintiffs asked the U.S. district court for a temporary restraining order or permanent injunction, claiming that they were threatened with unfavorable treatment reports, transfers, unwarranted searches to confiscate legal materials, and termination of supervised release.
Plaintiffs sought to proceed as a class and gained representation from the state bar’s Pro Se Project. The first amended complaint was filed on March 15, 2012. Plaintiffs sought injunctive relief and damages, alleging that defendants violated the Due Process Clause, the First Amendment, the Fourth Amendment, the Minnesota Constitution, and the Minnesota Civil Commitment and Treatment Act. Specifically, plaintiffs alleged that the defendants failed to provide adequate treatment to the plaintiff class; punished class members instead of treating them; denied class members less restrictive alternative confinement, and incarcerated them under inhumane conditions; denied them religious freedom, free speech, and free association; and subjected them to unreasonable searches and seizures.
In or around 2008, a new Executive Director of the MSOP program was hired, and he was alleged to have imposed more restrictive policies. Plaintiffs allege that they have vague treatment plans, a lack of qualified clinical staff, and that they have been denied proper medications and treatments. Plaintiffs allege that punishments include solitary confinement, denial of group therapy, denial of exercise, denial of employment opportunities, and denial of treatment. They also allege that the double-bunking of sexual offenders has led to increased physical and sexual assaults. They claim that they are subjected to intrusive searches without reasonable suspicion, and that legal correspondence is searched. Plaintiffs also claim that only one patient has been released without revocation of discharge. There are many more specific details in the complaint.
On January 25, 2012 and again on February 6, 2012, the Court [Judge Michael J. Davis] stayed all pending MSOP cases.
On July 24, 2012, the parties filed an agreement with the Court, outlining protections against searches of plaintiffs' legal materials. On July 24, 2012 the Court [Judge Donovan W. Frank] certified the plaintiff class of "All patients currently civilly committed in the Minnesota Sex Offender Program pursuant to Min.. Stat. § 253B." (Karsjens v. Jesson, 283 F.R.D. 514 (D. Minn. 2012)). Because of these developments, on July 26, 2012, the Court [J. Frank] held that the plaintiffs' motion for a temporary restraining order was moot.
On August 15, 2012, the Court [Magistrate Judge Arthur J. Boylan] found that further study was necessary to address these issues. The Court ordered that the Minnesota Commissioner of Human Services create a Sex Offender Civil Commitment Advisory Task Force for two years. The Court ordered that the Task Force shall provide the Commissioner with recommendations on less restrictive alternatives and other recommended legislative reforms. On October 5, 2012, the Court [J. Boylan] issued an order affirming the appointment of specific individuals to the Task Force. On December 13, 2012, the Court [Magistrate Judge Jeffrey J. Keyes] approved five more appointments to the Task Force.
Settlement conferences have been held, but the litigation continues.Emily Goldman - 02/28/2013