Wednesday, May 19, 2010

US Supreme Court Supports Federal Civil Commitment For Sex Offenders

I was glad to read that the US Supreme Court ruling will allow federal officials to indefinitely detain "sexually dangerous" sex offenders. While there are major civil rights issues related to civil commitment those issues can and should be addressed without eliminating this important protection for people whose rights and even lives can be lost if civil commitment isn't a possibility.

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that federal officials can indefinitely hold inmates considered “sexually dangerous” after their prison terms are complete.
By a 7-2 vote, the high court reversed a lower court decision that said Congress overstepped its authority in allowing indefinite detentions of considered “sexually dangerous.”

“The statute is a ‘necessary and proper’ means of exercising the federal authority that permits Congress to create federal criminal laws, to punish their violation, to imprison violators, to provide appropriately for those imprisoned and to maintain the security of those who are not imprisoned by who may be affected by the federal imprisonment of others,” said Justice Stephen Breyer, writing the majority opinion.
One of the criticisms of civil commitment is that offenders don't get cured, but if this is true when offenders have professional help then releasing the most sexually violent offenders at the end of their prison sentences isn't going to have a better outcome for anybody except that dangerous sex offender.

A huge problem with releasing any convicted sex offender is that while our society takes a harsh view of those it acknowledges as true sex offenders, it also supports many of the rationalizations these offenders use to cross ethical and legal lines. When people condemn rape while citing the actions of victims as the cause of that person's rape they directly undermine the messages given in sex offender treatment.

What absolutely does not make sense is for all the money and focus on preventing future sex crimes to be directed only on those who have reached the point of being labeled as dangerous sex offenders. We need to do so much more to prevent future acts of sexual violence before prison or commitment become options. Primary prevention needs to be viewed as an expense which is as necessary as prison cells. We also need to have a more systematic way to ensure that investigators and prosecutors are handling sex crime reports competently and that the public supports paying for competence. Civil commitment should not be a reason to tolerate other failures which put innocent people at risk.

The problem of sexual violence is pervasive so our response needs to be just as pervasive.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:31 AM   0 comments links to this post


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