In a major blow to civil liberties, an appeals court has upheld the Minnesota system that civilly commits sex offenders after they've served their prison terms, a confinement from which no one has ever been fully released. The decision, filed Tuesday, used the wrong legal standard, making it too easy for the state to lock people up indefinitely for future dangerousness. Worse, the U.S. Supreme Court might not review the decision, despite its being egregiously wrong, because there is no clear disagreement among the circuit courts.
The Minnesota Civil Commitment and Treatment of Sex Offenders Act, enacted in 1994, says any county attorney can ask a state district court to determine that a person is "sexually dangerous" or has a "sexually psychopathic personality." If the court agrees that the county attorney has demonstrated this by clear and convincing evidence, the person is committed indefinitely, against his or her will, to a "secure treatment facility."
There is no regular review to see whether the person should be released. The only way to get out is for the confined person to ask a review board to determine that he or she is no longer dangerous.