By Barbara Koeppel | June 4th, 2019
Back in 1997, the Supreme Court ruled that the practice known as civil commitment was legal. This meant that 20 states—which had passed laws permitting the ongoing incarceration of sex offenders—could continue to keep the men confined even after they completed their prison terms. (See “Sex Crimes and Criminal Justice,” from the May 2018 issue of The Washington Spectator, available here.)
All it took (and still takes) is for two psychologists to claim the men mightcommit a new crime and a judge to say their cases can move forward. They are then labeled sexually violent predators (SVPs) and reincarcerated in prisonlike facilities until new trials are held—supposedly to determine if they will be civilly committed or released. The result? Some men have been waiting for their day in court for 15 to 20 years. In the meantime, many have died.
No matter that the men already served their prison time. Or that psychologists, psychiatrists and lawyers I interviewed insist that very few should be confined—that instead, the vast majority, many of whom are elderly or ill, should be let out.
Eric Janus, former president and dean of Mitchell Hamline Law School in St. Paul, Minn., says that continuing to incarcerate the men to comfort fearful constituents doesn’t make the public safer. The bottom line? “I’ve never seen numbers that show there are fewer sex offenses or re-offenses in the 20 states that have the SVP laws than in the other 30 states that don’t,” Janus says.
Then why are an estimated 6,500 men still stashed away across the country? Locking up sex offenders is always good politics, but it is also extraordinarily profitable. And since California has the biggest budget and locks up the biggest number—three times the next three states’ combined—the Golden State offers the biggest boondoggle to explore.
Read at The Washington Spectator