Portrait of a Civil Commitment

Sex offender Bruce Foley was never committed. Then Dru Sjodin disappeared.

It was while Foley served time for his second release violation, which happened in October 2003, that he was recommended for civil commitment. Last month, Eighth Judicial Court Judge Randall Slieter ruled that Foley has an "utter lack of power to control sexual impulses" and committed him to St. Peter, which, along with Moose Lake, is one of the two state hospitals that offers a sex offender treatment program. Although St. Peter's treatment is not supposed to be a life sentence, no one has ever graduated from the program.

Warren Maas, coordinator of the Hennepin County Commitment Defense Project, says the program needs to be more accountable. "I don't think anyone [in sex offender treatment] should be put away for the rest of their life," says Maas.

James Dahlquist, Foley's court-appointed attorney, boils the commitment order down to a difference in medical opinion. But he says the political atmosphere had something to do with it. "We get Dru Sjodin and suddenly Foley meets the standards?" asks Dahlquist.

Rehabilitate or throw away the key? Bruce Foley's appearance changed; his behavior didn't
Minnesota Department of Corrections
Rehabilitate or throw away the key? Bruce Foley's appearance changed; his behavior didn't

People in Mike Hatch's office specifically refute the notion that a political atmosphere has affected court hearings. "This is about public safety, that is the bottom line," says Chief Deputy Attorney General Kris Eiden. She asserts there were other issues for the DOC when it was making recommendations for commitments. "Our concern is that the referrals were going down because of budget considerations," says Eiden.

For now, Foley is as good as out of sight, out of mind. With the Legislature recessed and little change in the way of new legislation, the system for dealing with sexual offenders lingers in the new vigor with which the current laws are being enforced--not in any new answers to the old questions of rights and rehabilitation.

Then again, Maas, as an advocate for those committed, has more worries about what could happen with proposed laws than what is happening with the current ones. "Clearly, at the top level," Maas says, "the governor and the attorney general and many in the Legislature would just as soon we shot these guys than see them."

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