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Associate Dean Daniel Filler Criticizes Minnesota Sex Offender Program in The Marshall Project

Dan Filler

February 09, 2015

In a Feb. 9 article in The Marshall Project, Associate Dean Daniel Filler criticized a Minnesota sex-offender civil commitment program that allows the state to virtually detain individuals indefinitely. 

According to The Marshall Project, Minnesota has the highest per capita sex-offender commitment rate and typically commits accused sex-offenders at an early age and ultimately releases very few.  This program is the subject of a class action lawsuit in the state arguing that the program amounts to "a de facto life sentence," having committed more than 700 offenders in 21 years and only released three, The Marshall Project reported.

Commitment facilities such as Minnesota's are supposed to rehabilitate people, not punish them, Filler said.  Filler argued that what the Minnesota program is doing is tantamount to prospectively punishing people for "crimes they have not yet committed."

A distinction must be made between detention for punishment versus detention for rehabilitation, Filler claimed.  “[I]f what you’re doing is punishing them for being rapists, you can’t do that prospectively,” Filler said. “But if you’re adopting a rehabilitative law — it’s the same thing we do in traditional mental health settings — sure, you can put people into a mental hospital,” Filler said. 

Filler is an expert on criminal law, and he studies the effects the social anxiety on the development of criminal law.