Minnesota Lawsuit Tests Civil Commitment

” . . . it’s really important that our system of justice doesn’t decide things on whether we think the people are hateful or awful.”

— Minnesota attorney Dan Gustafson, who represents the plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit against Minnesota and its medieval civil commitment program.

Trial begins Monday in federal court in Minnesota in a complicated class-action lawsuit that holds out the possibility of restoring justice to a system that destroys lives in the name of public safety.

Minnesota’s civil commitment program funnels former sex offenders into lifetime imprisonment after they have completed their sentences. For two decades no one has cared because it is so easy to hate former offenders. Now the former offenders are fighting back.

“Part of the problem in this case is that no one has the political will to take this on,” Gustafson said, noting the failure of proposed reform legislation that either died in committee or was never voted on because the issue is a political minefield.
“None of the political leadership in this state has any interest in being the person labeled as the legislator or the attorney general or whoever that supported the notion of treating sex offenders better,” he said. “It’s easy for me to say because I’m not running for elective office, but to me, justice is the more important concept.”
Read TwinCities.com / Pioneer Press columnist Ruben Rosario’s advance column on the trial by clicking here.

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