Gov. Mark Dayton has tossed the problem of what to do with committed sex offenders back to the state Legislature. On Wednesday, he ordered his human services commissioner, Lucinda Jesson, to halt further releases of such offenders until the Legislature has addressed the program.
Under Minnesota's Sex Offender Program, hundreds of people deemed sexual predators have been held indefinitely in prison-like settings. Only one has been released. Most of them have completed prison terms and were committed to the Sex Offender Program because they were considered likely to reoffend.
A class-action lawsuit has challenged the legality of the program, and authorities had begun to evaluate inmates for provisional release. Dayton, who is running for reelection in 2014, had come under political fire for failing to oppose the release of Thomas Duvall, 58, who has been cleared by a review board but has not yet been let out. Jesson said Dayton's decision to halt future releases will not affect Duvall or two other inmates whose discharges are in process.
A task force is examining the Sex Offender Program and is scheduled to offer its findings and recommendations in two weeks. Authorities had also begun planning to transfer some inmates to a facility in Cambridge, Minn.; that effort has now been suspended by Dayton's order.
In a letter to Jesson, Dayton said the release process had become a political issue in the gubernatorial race:
Unfortunately, I do not believe that your attempts to establish a program of provisional release, as required by current law, can succeed, when surrounded by this political gamesmanship. Accordingly, I direct that you oppose any future petitions by sexual offenders for provisional releases, until after the following conditions have been met.
Those conditions are the completion of the task force report, legislative review of the program and appropriate funding for the program.
The Daily Circuit follows up on the governor's announcement and the prospects for the Sex Offender Program.