Court ruling could speed up release process for state's sex offender program
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that civilly committed people must be transferred to a community program within a reasonable amount of time after the request is made.
According to court documents, the Minnesota Commitment Appeals Panel ordered two patients in the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP) to be transferred to Community Preparation Services (CPS).
The two patients in the case claim the Commissioner of the Department of Human Services and the Executive Director of the MSOP violated their due process rights by delaying transfer to CPS for over two years following transfer orders.
The MSOP is for those who are considered sexually dangerous - not necessarily criminals. It uses a three-stage treatment process. Phase III programming beings inside MSOP treatment facilities and extends out to CPS when transfer outside of the facility is approved by the courts.
While residing in CPS, the Minnesota Department of Human Services says patients progress through three levels to gradually reintroduce the patient to community activities, and address deinstitutionalization.
Once courts place a patient in CPS, they continue the reintegration process with the goal of eventual provisional discharge into the community.
The district court concluded the patients sufficiently alleged a violation of their 14th amendment due process rights to a transfer to CPS within a reasonable amount of time following the transfer order.
The Minnesota Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals decision, holding that the right to transfer to CPS within a reasonable time of the transfer orders was clearly established when the orders to transfer the patients were issued.
It also remanded the court of appeals to address the question it says it did not: whether the patients sufficiently alleged a violation of their due process rights.
The Minnesota Supreme Court wrote, "The State Officials had a clear obligation to execute the CAP transfer orders within a reasonable period of time."
A spokesperson for the Minnesota Department of Human Services, which oversees MSOP, told WCCO the safety and quality of care for patients is a top priority and insufficient capacity is a real problem. The agency wants more than $21 million from the upcoming state budget to remodel and add dozens of beds.
Attorneys warn there are many more patients waiting for transfers too that must be moved.
The case now goes back to the district court because now that we have an established right to a reasonable amount of time, exactly what constitutes a reasonable amount of time needs a bit more clarity.
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