Commissioner Shall Develop Less Restrictive Alternative Programs

The below is OCEAN Newsletter Volume 1, Issue 7, Article 3 (Dec. 23, 2019) published by Russell J. Hatton & Daniel A. Wilson from the gulag in Moose Lake Minnesota.

 

On December 2, 2 013 a federal court ordered the Sex Offender Civil Commitment Advisory Task Force to be charged with examining certain specific aspects of Minnesota’s process for the civil commitment of sex offenders. The Task Force was directed to provide recommended legislative proposals to the Commissioner of Human Services on the following three topics:

A. The civil commitment and referral process for sex offenders;

B. Sex offender civil commitment options that are less restrictive than placement in a secure treatment facility; and

C. The standards and processes for the reduction in custody for civilly committed sex offenders.

After twenty public meetings over a period of 14 months, the Task Force was unanimous in its conclusion that the serious problems that exist in the current program can and should be addressed by legislative actions 1 that:
( 1) rationalize the process,
(2) make it more objective, and
(3) eliminate to the greatest extent possible the influence of politics on commitment, placement and release decisions
With the ultimate goal being the rights of those persons subject to civil commitment proceedings and the interests of the public be better protected.Commitment decisions are too often all or nothing adjudications. Under current law, all offenders committed to MSOP are presumptively placed in the highest level of security.
An independent judicial body, one that is not subject to local or other political pressures, should make commitment, transfer, and release decisions.
Perhaps the most significant impediment to effective Less Restrictive Alternatives is the absence of facilities and funding for programs to which offenders can be committed short of a secure facility, or outright release.
Existing law allows a court to commit an individual to a less-restrictive alternative if the individual
“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.” Minn. Stat. § 253B. 185, subd. l (d) (2012). However, the lack of programs and facilities makes this provision of limited value.
The Legislative Auditor’s March 2 011 report highlighted this issue in its findings and recommendations:
“Minnesota lacks reasonable alternatives to commitment at a high security facility.” (p. xi)
□ “One problem with Minnesota’s commitment process is that it results in an all-or-nothing outcome.
□ The decision that prosecutors and judges face is that either a sex offender is civilly committed in an expensive, high security facility, or the offender is released to the community, sometimes with no supervision if he has served his complete prison sentence. ” (p. 42)
□ “Minnesota may be committing some sex offenders who could be treated and supervised in other less costly settings.” (p. 43)
The Legislature must provide adequate funding for less secure residential facilities, group homes, outpatient facilities, and treatment programs. The Legislature must ensure that such facilities and programs are operational within a reasonable period of time.
The Department of Corrections, the Department of Human Services, prosecutors, the courts, and persons subject to the commitment process must have full ability to access these Less Restrictive Alternatives. To the extent that any of the current statutory or regulatory laws are obstacles to Less Restrictive Alternatives, appropriate legislative changes should be made.
Less Restrictive Alternatives must ensure public safety. The Legislature should provide for increased resources for public education regarding the rehabilitative aspects of such programs and the provisions for public safety.
The Legislature should provide for geographic distribution of Less Restrictive Alternative facilities and programs to serve the entire state through regional, multi-provider and other collaborative programs. The Legislature must consider how local government ordinances, resolutions, or similar laws which have the effect of limiting, excluding, or impeding the siting of Less Restrictive Alternative facilities or programs for civilly committed sex offenders should be dealt with when they conflict with the establishment of a statewide plan for Less Restrictive Alternatives.
The Commissioner shall develop Less Restrictive Alternative programs and facilities throughout the state after due consideration of the population of offenders to be served, the number of facilities and different programs necessary to serve that population, the expressed desire of the Legislature that facilities not be unduly concentrated, and the financial impact of programs and facilities providing overlapping services.
Certification and licensing of programs and facilities granted by either the Department of Human Services or the Department of Corrections shall be honored by both departments.
The Commissioner shall enter into contracts with governmental and nongovernmental entities and organizations agreeing to provide housing, supervision, and treatment of civilly committed sex offenders outside of secure treatment facilities.
The Commissioner may request proposals on an ongoing basis.
FOOTNOTES
1 https://edocs.dhs.state.mn.us/Ifserver/Public/DHS-6641-ENG.

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