June 19, 2015

"It is fundamental to our notions of a free society that we do not imprison citizens because we fear that they might commit a crime in the future."

"Although the public might be safer if the government, using the latest 'scientific' methods of predicting human behavior, locked up potential murderers, rapists, robbers, and, of course, sex offenders, our system of justice, enshrined in rights guaranteed by our Constitution, prohibits the imposition of preventive detention except in very limited circumstances. This strikes at the very heart of what it means to be a free society where liberty is a primary value of our heritage. Significantly, when the criminal justice system and the civil commitment system carry out their responsibilities, the constitutional rights of all citizens, including sex offenders, can be upheld without compromising public safety or disrespecting the rights, concerns, and fears of victims."

Wrote Federal District Judge Donovan Frank, whom David Post quote in "Minnesota’s egregious sex offender confinement statute held unconstitutional. Post observes:
Almost 1000 individuals over the last 20 years have been involuntarily committed to the MSOP facility under this program, and not one has ever been discharged  – in effect, indefinite and lifetime detention. It’s an appalling piece of legislative malfeasance, and Minnesotans should be ashamed of themselves for having enacted it into law....
Here's an article about Judge Frank (who was born in 1951 and appointed by Bill Clinton):

Frank graduated law school from Hamline University in 1977 and was promptly hired as an assistant prosecutor for the St. Louis County Attorney’s Office in Virginia, Minn.... On the Iron Range, as Minnesota’s northeastern mining region is known, Frank was quickly recruited for a number of boards.... Between his roles on the board of directors of the Range Mental Health Center and the East Range Developmental Achievement Center, Frank learned a lot about mental health, developmental disabilities, and advocating for people who need a little extra help. “When you live with parents and friends and children of people with developmental disabilities, you get educated by them, and the stereotypes fall away,” he says.

Frank was also a member of the St. Louis County Child Abuse Team, and in his early years on the Iron Range, he worked on a lot of child abuse, neglect, and commitment cases, including the first case in Minnesota that allowed expert testimony to explain why young children often do not report abuse and why mothers often side with abusers....

When Frank joined the St. Louis County Attorney’s Office in 1977, no one in his new community knew that he was recovering from a major alcohol addiction.... Coincidentally, one of Frank’s responsibilities when he went up to the Iron Range was to do mental health and chemical dependency competency and commitment hearings.

Frank believes that his personal history gave him some sensitivity without judgment. “And because I was working a program,” he says, “I soon started seeing how we weren’t properly screening individuals in jails for mental health and addiction issues. If you don’t address some of those problems, you’re just going to get a revolving door.” 

12 comments:

sparrow said...

Sounds like justice was served

Rusty said...

St. Louis County Child Abuse Team,


They got teams for that?
What's their name? The St Louis Spankers?


Ignorance is Bliss said...

Minnesota’s egregious sex offender confinement statute held unconstitutional.

Judge Frank... was... appointed by Bill Clinton

I wonder if Bill, like Hillary, had a litmus test for judges to exclude any that might rule against his personal interests.

David Hampton said...

Correct. It is also fundamental that we protect ourselves with all means necessary when the inevitable violence confronts us. If you can't engage in preventive maintenance then you can't deny the victims-in-waiting their second amendment rights to be prepared and take appropriate action. Case in point, the recent atrocity in Charleston, S.C. and the conversations Roof had with his roommate, parents, and criminal proclivities.

SeanF said...

This seems either pretty insignificant or very significant to me, depending on how you look at it.

It would certainly be "prettier" if the trial courts had simply imposed life in prison as the sentence in the first place, and then required the convict to demonstrate that there's no danger of recidivism in order to be released, but the end effect on the convict would be the same - and we do that all the time, for all kinds of crimes.

So either it's insignificant, in that the state just needs to make life imprisonment the sentence imposed at trial, or it's very significant, in that there are a lot of people in prisons all across the country who are being unconstitutionally detained.

Big Mike said...

But according to garage Minnesota is such a wonderful state! Better than Wisconsin in every conceivable way since the election of that rotten Walker guy.

Rusty said...


I wonder if Bill, like Hillary, had a litmus test for judges to exclude any that might rule against his personal interests.

You gotta admit it works in the expresidents favor.

Gordon said...

Here in Minnesota, the feeling among the politicians and the public is: We don't know what the hell to do with these people. I suspect every politician who voted for this program, and the governors who signed the legislation, knew in their hearts that it was unconstitutional. They also knew that sex offenders don't vote much compared to the general public.

Better to risk a judge saying, "That was unconstitutional!" than voters saying, "Why didn't you do something, ANYTHING?" You don't get booted from office for the former.

Robert Cook said...

Once indefinite preventative detention is accepted in the cases of the worst criminals or most vexing cases, it will come to be seen as useful and therefore acceptable to use in less serious or vexing circumstances, and eventually whenever we feel like it.

"It is...fundamental that we protect ourselves with all means necessary when the inevitable violence confronts us."

No. It is fundamental that we protect ourselves, but not with "all means necessary." We may only protect ourselves with means deemed constitutional.

Gabriel said...

If sex offenders are so dangerous to society because they are so likely to reoffend, then their prison sentences for the actual crimes should reflect that, and they should never be let out unless their conviction is overturned.

But there should not be any gray area once they are out. That's how freedom works.

Anonymous said...

This is why the 2nd amendment is so important.

Give crazy people their freedom, and when they go crazy, be prepared to shoot them dead, like in the case in Charleston.

The 2nd amendment makes all of us more free. If you're opposed to the 2nd amendment, this is the direction society will go. The answer to Charleston won't be more guns, it'll be, let's lock up these crazy people before they can do this. Or it'll be, let's take guns away from everyone.

Either way, your answer will either be more freedom, or less freedom.

I'm in the more freedom crowd myself.

Aussie Pundit said...

allowed expert testimony to explain why young children often do not report abuse and why mothers often side with abusers....

What about "fathers" who side with abusers?
This sentence strongly implies that abusers are always men. That's just false.
I'm tired of the abusers-are-men assumption in so much journalism on this topic. Many abusers are men, but some are women, and the language should reflect that - because otherwise we risk making some victims invisible.