I really should read the decision before saying a whole lot but my first impression is that this is incredibly alarming:

In a broad endorsement of federal power, the Supreme Court on Monday ruled that Congress has the authority under the Constitution to allow the continued confinement of some sex offenders after they have completed their criminal sentences.

Prisoner: “Today is the day my sentence is complete!”

Government: “Today is the day we start keeping you in prison without due process and ex post facto increase the penalty as long as we feel like it.”

[H/T to Chet from work.]


11 thoughts on “Wow!

  1. I’ve got no problem keeping child molesters in jail for as long as they may live, and I do believe that they repeat their crimes with such predictability because of a mental illness, much like a serial killer.

    That said, this is the wrong way to go about keeping them in confinement. We must update local and state laws to permit higher sentences and get judges that aren’t afraid to wield that hammer on the bench. We don’t need to carve out special punishment for them. Just treat them like the serial rapists and murders of innocent childhoods that they are.

    We have tolerated their actions for far too long in our society. We must come down harder on these disgusting human beings but we must do it in a honest and just manner.

  2. We’re talking about federal enforcement of a general crime in the several states – which is extra-constitutional in the first place.

    No reason to think they’d honor the Constitution in their execution of unconstitutional processes.

  3. If this is allowed to stand where do we go from here? Do we keep bank robbers in jail for life, because up until now bank robbers have traditionally had the worst sentences put on them by the banking cabal who needs that money for themselves.

  4. It’s actually more concerning that when we talk about sex offenders we think of kiddie fiddlers that we think deserve everything they get. However, when government means sex offender it means the 11 year old kid from next door who looked up someones skirt on day. An offence that got you slapped 20 years ago but now comes with a lifetime punishment.

    First they came for the sex offenders.

  5. How long, you figure, before this is expanded to other offenses? Shall we start a pool?

  6. Yeah. “What’s next?” is my concern too. The precedent has been set.

    I really need to read the ruling before I get too far off the deep end on it though…

  7. It’s rather hinky, but here’s the gist of the argument.

    1. We have a person convicted of a violent sexual offence (not kiddie porn possession. . . a VIOLENT sexual offence) ALREADY in federal custody. . .

    2. Who is CURRENTLY suffering from a mental illness, such that he continues to pose a threat to others (keep in mind the standard for an involuntary mental commitment is general (“poses a threat to himself or others”). . .

    3. Therefor, the feds will retain custody (unless the state where he is confined OR the state where he was convicted wishes to take custody, and the feds MUST notify those states. . . that proviso neatly takes care of any 10th Amendment questions about federalism), so long as his mental derangement poses an ongoing “threat to others”. (If he is released to one of the states, that state can immediately release him, if it so chooses, so no unfunded mandate, either — unlike the previous law argued before SCOTUS in favor of similar commitments, this one doesn’t even allow the feds to insist that commitment – or any other mental treatment – be continued after tranferring custody to a state.)

    In 1945, it was recognized that the federal government SHOULD NOT merely release those who were nuts, simply becuase their sentence had been served — you can’t just swing the prison door open and say, “Here you go, crazy man — now go and be a good citizen, until the voices tell you to kill again!”

    The law in question is redundant — anyone qualifying for indefinate civil commitment under it was ALRADY subject to indefinate civil commitment under multiple existing federal laws going back to at 1948 (and which is based on federal mental health statutes concerning federal prisoners going back to 1855).

    This law doesn;t create any new criminal offence, it doesn’t apply to prisoners (including sexual offenders) who are not BOTH mentally ill AND AS A RESULT likely to violently offend again.

    Once FedGov has taken custody of a prisoner, they are responsible for taking care of him. If it is determined during his stay in teh GreyBar Hilton that he is crazy, they are responsible for treating him. All this law does is underscore the fact that a violent sexual offender, who is crazy, and is likely to commit another violent sexual offence BECAUSE he is crazy, cannot be simply dumped out of the system. He can be turned over to a state, which can then dump him out.

    The only real problem is, making sure the process to establish that he is A., mentally ill, and B., AS A RESULT of that illness, he poses a continuing threat. (If he’s just evil rather than crazy, this law doesn’t apply. If he’s crazy in a way unrelated to his evil, this law doesn’t apply. Just becuase you’re a rapist AND borderline personality, doesn’t permit commitment. . . unless your borderline personality is a big part of why you rape.)

    Of course, in most cases (and IMNSHO) violent sexual predators ought to be sitting around for death or life, anyway. Which would render this law moot.

  8. Oh well, at least you’d have plenty of free sex, whether you wanted it or not. Probably couldn’t feign a headache either.

  9. Part of me is very grateful for this court decision: part of me hates it.

    As a former prison chaplain, I’m grateful because I’ve personally seen guys released from prison who were/are absolutely unrepentant, unrehabilitated, and whom we all knew would reoffend (to the point of having a betting pool on how soon it would happen). We knew that in letting them walk out the door, we were condemning someone (or some people) to be victims, sooner rather than later – but we had no way to keep them behind bars. At least, now, for the worst sexual predators, we can stop that . . . but sexual predators aren’t the only really bad guys out there. In that sense, this is a bad ruling. I’d like to see it apply to every criminal who’s unrepentant and unrehabilitated.

    I’m worried, however, because this decision means that such judgment calls will be dependent on the insight of bureaucrats and correctional personnel to make decisions about someone’s character, to make the call whether or not he/she is safe to be released. I think such decisions should be made by a judge, who’s listened to all the evidence before making them: and they should require judicial intervention at regular intervals – say, every three years? – where the ‘system’ should have to justify its desire to keep him behind bars, and the convict should have the opportunity to state his case as well. Only by regular review can we prevent a gulag from developing.

    Hope this helps.


  10. This should be a reminder as to why we carry. Scumbags get let out every day. Ventilate on sight if they pose a threat to you or your loved ones.

  11. Peter,

    I need to read the law in question, but from the 58 page decision, it seems that the law requires that any commitment under THIS law is handled the same as any other civil commitment, only the feds already have physical custody of the person.

    As long as the reconmendation for commitment is made by properly qualified mental health profesionals, the same as if we were discussing a homeless guy found babbling about demons in the library, that’s one thing. Someone who is genuinely menatlly ill, and becuase of that illness, poses an ongoing threat to others (or himself, but this law only concerns itself with harm to others), he should be kept in custody (reciving proper treatment, if treatment is available. . . I’m aware that medical treatment for most sex offenders is not very effective) until he is no longer dangerous.

    A civil commitment isn’t “additional punishment” in that case, anymore than anyone else who is civilly committed for being a threat to themselves or others becuase they are crazy.

    If Der Kommisar in the Attorney General’s office can just declare Chester the Molester to be a mental patient and a threat, that is a badness thing. Now, we’re just declaring people to be “unwell” becuase they are “ungood.”

    Even if Chester really is an evil man we all know is going to reoffend, if he is not mentally ill, he is only on the hook for what he was properly sentanced for. (People who don’t like light sentances for violent sex offenders? Elect better politicians to pass stricter laws and confirm better judges. I’m all for “death or life imprisonment” for most violent sex offenders anyway.)

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