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Saturday, January 5, 2013

St. Peter Herald: My Lawsuit vs MSOP/DHS

Former inmate claims abuse by St. Peter MSOP staff

Posted: Saturday, January 5, 2013 7:30 am
A former inmate at the Minnesota Security Hospital is suing several staff members of the Minnesota Sex Offender Program and the commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Services Lucinda Jesson, alleging among other things that he was physically and sexually assaulted while being held at the MSOP facility in St. Peter. Thomas Evenstad, a resident of Hennepin County, was convicted in Minnesota state court of first and third degree criminal sexual conduct in 1999.

Evenstad served a prison sentence of 139 months, from March 20, 1999 through June 8, 2006 and spent seven days in the Hennepin County Workhouse before he was transferred to MSOP-St. Peter on June 15, 2006.
According to a complaint filed in third district court, Evenstad was placed at St. Peter while waiting to hear whether or not he would be civilly committed or institutionalized for treatment as a sex offender.
Usually, petitions for commitment are filed shortly before someone is scheduled to be released from prison. Information about the person, such as the person's mental and criminal history, is gathered by a county attorney and analyzed to determine whether or not the requirements for commitment have been met, says an overview of the Minnesota Sex Offender Program posted on their website.
To be committed, a person must be defined as a "sexual psychopathic personality" or a "sexually dangerous person" who is likely to engage in future dangerous sexual behavior, said the website.
According to MSOP, a person who is being petitioned for commitment and who has been placed under a judicial hold order pending final commitment may be confined at a Department of Corrections or a county correctional or detention facility.
During this time, they are not technically receiving treatment from MSOP and are not committed to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program.
According to the complaint, Evenstad was initially lodged on the MSOP Campus in St. Peter with several other individuals pending commitment to the sex offender program.
The complaint alleges that after Evenstad helped several other individuals on judicial hold with legal petitions and offered other types of legal advice, he was transferred "up the hill" to the Minnesota Security Hospital (MSH) main building which houses civilly committed individuals and those who are mentally ill and dangerous.
According to the complaint, Evenstad was placed in the Therapeutic Concepts Unit of the main building without being given the required seven-day notice specified under Minnesota law and without being civilly committed to the MSOP.
After being transferred, Evenstad began to fear for his life and physical safety, said the complaint. He wrote several letters to MSOP staff asking for his privileges to be restored and to be transferred back to the lower part of the campus, said the complaint.
The complaint said that even before being transferred to the main building, Evenstad was denied access to make private, confidential telephone calls to his defense attorneys despite several written requests to the Hospital Review Board. Evenstad alleges that Nancy Johnston, the MSOP-St. Peter Site Director told him on more than one occasion that he would not be allowed to make calls as long as she was director.
The complaint also alleges that Evenstad was denied access to legal materials commonly available to inmates of the Minnesota Department of Corrections.
Evenstad wrote several letters to MSOP staff requesting a move back to the portion of the campus he was originally housed in. Evenstad alleges that these letters were shared with the MSOP staff, directly resulting in further restrictions on his privileges.
The complaint alleges that on Dec. 27, 2006, two boxes containing legal materials belonging to Evenstad were illegally seized by MSOP staff and that Evenstad was submitted to a pat-down during which one of the security officers sexually and physically assaulted him. Evenstad alleges in the complaint that he was denied medical assistance and threatened with seclusion while MSOP staff read and reviewed his legal materials.
Evenstad said some of the papers were returned to him two months later, but that some were never returned, including attorney-client privileged letters and filings pertaining to his commitment case.
Evenstad further alleges that letters written by a fellow patient describing the physical assault by the MSOP staff and a letter/affidavit written by an ex-MSOP employee testifying to mental abuse he witnessed by MSOP staff toward MSOP residents were also seized.
Shortly after the Dec. 27 incident, Evenstad said the staff began using protective isolation to punish him for multiple alleged infractions, including phone-call violations.
In March, a Human Services licensor cited MSOP-St. Peter for putting Evenstad in protective isolation without proper justification, said the complaint.
The same month, Evenstad was reportedly remanded to the Minnesota Department of Corrections. In April, he was placed back on judicial hold with MSOP and in August he was released without being committed, said the complaint.
Evenstad, an active online presence and blogger, maintains he is innocent of the rape he was convicted of in 1999 and is openly critical of MSOP and its treatment of convicted sex offenders.

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