There is a blight covering our beloved country and on our land. As with any infestation, in the early stages, the damage goes unnoticed by those without a trained eye. As this blight begins to grow, those who have seen the damage are trying to stem the growth and remove the problem with unreasonable laws filled with revenge and hate. The infestation is still growing because what appeared appropriate on paper and in theory is a miserable failing everyone program.

I am speaking of men who are now serving a life sentence after finishing a court mandated state prison sentence. The solution is only making the situation worse and like the ineffective weed killer on the infestation, the problem grows bigger each day. The men and women serving a newly acquired life sentence are being punished for a crime they may commit somewhere and sometime in the future. These people have not broken any laws since their release from their prison sentence. They are continuing to receive the utmost torture because of a few soothsayers’ predictions. Who are these soothsayers with so much power? These are the men and women who have been declared mental health experts, who claim that they have the power and knowledge to make this world a better place by keeping a particular class of offender locked away until they die. These men and at least four women have been deemed the worst of the worst offenders. They are sex offenders classified as Sexually Violent Persons or Sexually Violent Predators (SVPs), and they are now relegated to the modern-day equivalent of a dungeon called civil commitment centers best known as Shadow Prisons.

Civil commitment is supposed to be a place of treatment to aid the offender in restoring normal behavior and eradicating any abnormal sexual, deviant patterns and/or desires in their life. Some centers prefer to call themselves treatment hospitals. This is as much a farce as calling an elephant a hippopotamus. 

There are 20 states, District of Columbia, and the Federal Government with civil commitment centers. The citizens of the states with civil commitment centers, and particularly the Federal Government, do not announce that these places exist. Now ask yourselves, why are these places not acknowledged? The larger portion of the citizens of this country have never heard the words civil commitment centers. They lack any knowledge of what happens on a daily basis in the horrendous places. Ms., Mr. and Mrs., Joe Average assume this is just another state prison or jail not concerned with the cost of operation or whose is paying the bill. We, as Americans have become complacent and insensitive to what happens to our fellow men and women to the point that our interest is strictly focused only on ourselves and our immediate needs. 

To know the truth of a Shadow Prison I am printing a copy of a letter from a man who knows well the inner workings of civil commitment. His name is Brad Woltjer, an inmate/patient/client in the Minnesota Offender Program most often referred to as MSOP. He has been locked away for 15 years. 

 Brad’s Story (in his own words)

I was 22 years old when I got locked up and am now 36 years old. This year will mark 20 years since my first offense, and 17 years since my most recent offense. The time does not add up being locked up for this long.

As a juvenile at age 16, I committed a sex offense. I was sentenced to sex offender treatment at Leo A. Hoffman Center, which I had completed. At age 18, I was charged with a gross misdemeanor for touching a 14-year-old’s buttocks. I was sentenced to 30 days in jail. At age 19, I was charged for solicitation of a 15-year-old and was sentenced to 100 days in jail. About 8 months after that sentencing, I violated probation for indirect contact with a minor and was sent to prison for 6 months. 

After my prison sentence was over, I was petitioned for civil commitment at Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP) and was committed in 2006 (age 22). Since I was committed, I went back to prison one time for not following the program rules.

Please understand that I know I have made poor choices and I am accountable for that. I contribute most of these poor choices to my youth. I was young and did not understand that what I was doing was wrong. Since then, I’ve completed my sentencing and have worked toward a better life. Since returning from my last violation, I have made tremendous progress. I have grown up and matured over the last 20 years. I have learned the difference between right and wrong and have come to realize that I have hurt people in the past. I am sorry for what I did and have regret about my poor decisions of the past. Some people might attribute my progress to the program; however, I see it as personal growth and maturity. I am no longer that immature, young person. I have grown up and learned a lot about myself. I have learned how to express myself and make responsible decisions rather than hold back and be irresponsible. I am willing to ask for help because I have learned I cannot accomplish everything on my own. 

Since my commitment at MSOP I’ve had many traumatizing experiences. In my opinion, the program is abusive in nature and causes emotional and psychological harm. The main things causing issues in my treatment were their so-called “treatment tools”, like the full-disclosure polygraph and penile plethysmograph (PPG) testing. Between what was self-reported and what was in my paperwork, there was a discrepancy. There was nothing else to be reported, and some facts concerning my offending were incorrectly reported. In total, I took the polygraph 4 times and nothing changed. I never reported anything different. For some reason, I did not pass the polygraph the first 3 times I took it. During that time, I was informed that I would not be able to move forward in treatment until I had a successful polygraph. They contradicted their very own program theory manual, which states that the requirement is to participate in taking the polygraph. To me, it feels as though they purposely failed me on the polygraphs to hold me back in the treatment program. To suddenly pass without reporting anything differently discomforted me in the hands of this so-called treatment program. 

In 2014 I went through the Special Review Board (SRB), the first step for petitioning for a release or less-restrictive alternative to MSOP. At this time, I was informed I would soon be advanced to “Phase 3” which is the transition part of the MSOP program. After 4-5 months I still had not progressed, so I wrote to the clinical program director to find out why. Basically, I was told that I would not move forward because I hadn’t passed a full-disclosure polygraph and had substandard client engagement. When I passed the full-disclosure polygraph in 2016, I still was not moved up to “Phase 3.” I had verified that I was honest in my reporting and did what was asked of me. Four years later, this issue still has not been resolved. The Supreme Court Appeals Panel (SCAP) did not support me for any relief. 

In 2016 I took the penile plethysmograph (PPG) test. I was subjected to audio segments of a creepy weird guy trying to get kids to have sex with him using persuasion or coercion, and video segments of children, teenagers, and some adults. All of this was done with a band around my penis to measure arousal. I was traumatized by this experience and felt degraded, worthless, and humiliated. This was, by far, the worst experience I’ve had in my life. 

The results of that test came back reporting no clinical significance, which means I was not erect enough to measure any arousal. Because there was no clinical significance, my treatment team elected to have me retake the test. Again, in 2019, the results came back reporting no clinical significance. If this type of testing was accurate, I would not have had to do this traumatizing test more than once. Studies show that it is only 33% accurate at its best performance, not including all the other factors that decrease the accuracy. 

When I did the PPG for the second time in 2019, I also had to take an affinity test which reported my sexual interest in adult females, and possible interest in juvenile females, pre-juvenile females, and small child females. As of 2019, my treatment team does not believe that I have deviant sexual arousal and will not be a treatment target for me moving forward. However, I do have some treatment work to incorporate the affinity results into my understanding of my sexual arousal. 

My risk to re-offend is low. I do not have an extensive offending history and my charges were nonviolent. My diagnoses continue to change depending on who evaluates me, so it’s hard to understand what issues to address in treatment. I feel like the attorneys who represent me are part of the problem because they talk about treatment, rather than the legal aspects of it. It’s hard for me to believe in a system that is flawed. It is impossible to complete a treatment program when there is no accreditation or real treatment as it is ever-changing. There are many other issues I can expand on if you would like to hear more. 

All of this “treatment” is excruciating, strenuous, tiring, exhausting, and draining. Each day is a struggle to remain in treatment because there is no recourse for me. I am not the type of person to give up. At times I am at odds with my treatment team and do not wish to continue to chase the carrot. I also don’t want to rot here – I want to be with my family since they are a great source of support for me. I feel like there is no hope to end the nightmare that is MSOP. 

I am getting my story out there so others can understand the flawed and unjust system of civil commitment and offer suggestions. It may help to build a stronger case with more information and support from other sources. 

Brad Woltjer 

There is little that I can add to this truth. The exception being, how long are we going to let these men receive punishment for their court mandated punishment that has been paid?

How many years must a person serve to be punished and denied any chance for rehabilitation?

When do we as a united front Stand Up and Dare to Speak Out? 

When do we as individuals say these things are not right and I want to be part of changing the system?

When as a nation are we going to unite against injustice and inequality regardless of gender, color, race, or any other bias we may have?

When will we as a nation accept that there is only one race on this earth? That is the human race. We come in colors because we are human rainbows. Wouldn’t this be a boring place if we all looked alike?

How many deaf ears and blind eyes will read this blog and move on without thinking another thought about civil commitment or how much of their taxpayer’s dollars will go to keeping these men locked up indefinitely?

How have we become a nation of such insensitivity?

There is a simple answer to the when questions. The answer is NOW, TODAY/TONIGHT or when you read this. The time for change can always begin and usually does with one person who says that this is enough and speaks out to all who will listen and to those who try not to hear. Today, I am that one person trying to reach your heart for compassion and your mind for the logical solutions to a deplorable problem.

Regardless of what you may feel toward these men, I thank you for taking the time to read this blog. Should you wish to reach out with a comment, questions, or story of similar trauma or abuse, please feel free to contact me site and I will try to see that other readers will know that this is not an isolated incident.

I sincerely ask that if you found this article worth your time that you please donate to this website so that the voiceless may have a voice that can be heard.