May 17, 2010

Court: 'Sexually dangerous' inmates can stay locked up

Posted: 01:06 PM ET

(CNN) - The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday the federal government has the power to keep some sex offenders behind bars indefinitely after they have served their sentences if officials determine those inmates may prove "sexually dangerous" in the future.

"The federal government, as custodian of its prisoners, has the constitutional power to act in order to protect nearby (and other) communities from the danger such prisoners may pose," Justice Stephen Breyer wrote for the 7-2 majority.

At issue was the constitutionality of federal "civil commitment" for sex offenders who are nearing the end of their confinement or who are considered too mentally incompetent to stand trial.

The main plaintiff in the case, Graydon Comstock, was certified as dangerous six days before his 37-month federal prison term for processing child pornography was to end. Comstock and the others filing suit remain confined at Butner Federal Correctional Complex near Raleigh, North Carolina.

Three other inmates who filed suit served prison terms of three to eight years for offenses ranging from child pornography to sexual abuse of a minor. Another was charged with child sex abuse but was declared mentally incompetent to face trial.

All were set to be released nearly three years ago, but government appeals have blocked their freedom. The government says about 83 people are being held under the civil commitment program.

Corrections officials and prosecutors determined the men remained a risk for further sexually deviant behavior if freed. The inmates' attorneys maintain the continued imprisonment violates their constitutional right of due process and argue Congress overstepped its power by allowing inmates to be held for certain crimes that normally would fall under the jurisdiction of state courts.


Do you agree with the Supreme Court that some sex offenders should stay locked up indefinitely?

Filed under: Justice

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scotts777   May 17th, 2010 2:18 pm ET

Many people criticize the government over it's decision, but i feel they made a very good decision on this issue. I would like to thank the government for caring enough about the law abiding citizens to protect them from these people.

James   May 17th, 2010 5:51 pm ET

I would like my government to give a damn about civil liberties. The sentence one receives is the sentence one should serve. Period.

Dodie   May 17th, 2010 6:11 pm ET

Child Sex Offenders

The typical child sex offender molests an average of 117 children, most of who do not report the offence.
Source: National Institute of Mental Health, 1988.

About 95% of victims know their perpetrators.
Source: CCPCA, 1992.

*** Recidivism rates of child sex offender

According to Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice in 2006, convicted sex offenders in a Canadian study found long-term recidivism could be as high as 88.3%. Wisconsin psychologist, Dennis Doren, author of a widely published report suggested a recidivism rate of 52%, with the notion that ‘all’ sex criminals are likely to re-offend,
The variance in Recidivism rates vary widely depending on: Timeframe and actual conviction or self reporting

*** Profile of a child sex predator:

* A child sexual predator is often uncomfortable with adult intimacy, so they search out children, who are easily manipulated.
* A child sexual predator usually refuses to take responsibility for his/her actions.
* A child sexual predator generally has a need for controlling others and for power.
* A child sexual predator may have been abused as a child, leaving them “stuck” at that age emotionally; therefore, attracted to that innocence and age
* A child sexual predator is most often attracted to the ‘unconditional love’ given by a child
* A child sexual predator usually experiences Low self-esteem.

Before a child sexual predator can be released from incarceration, this individual would require a thorough screening for the following:

1. They must be genuine and honest to themselves and others
2. They must place the compassion for the children first before their needs.
3. Admitting fully what they have done, never try to defend their behavior
4. Accepting full responsibility for the damage they did, including accepting that their actions were entirely their choice,
5. Understanding that stress and being out of balance can lead back to these behaviors and to guard against this.
6. The awareness they can choose to do something different such as talk with someone or seek professional help about their desires and inner experiences.

These individuals are Not bad people, Their behaviors are unacceptable which requires No excuses, No defense and a willingness to accept full responsibility!!!!

Lady priest   May 17th, 2010 6:17 pm ET


Davidson   May 17th, 2010 7:04 pm ET

Good decision.

ljprodev   May 17th, 2010 8:02 pm ET

The only issue I have with this is the serious chance that some arrogant shrink or psychologist may determine a person unfit for release based on their ego and not the person's true position. If the court that convicted them said 8 years, then let it be 8 years. If we start doing this, then we need to do the same for murders and burglers too.

Earle Richmond   May 17th, 2010 8:09 pm ET

Due to the recidivism rates of child sex predators, it would be wise to keep these individuals locked up. After all, who has more rights, the convicted predator or the next innocent child?

IKHAN   May 17th, 2010 10:02 pm ET

Hi Larry,
you always have a good grip on what you say.Well researched.
A disturbing number of child offenders have been found to repeat the offense after being released which may result from compulsion or simple perversion, hard to say.
More scary are those perpetrators who are violent which invariably results in the death & at times with torture & mutilation of the victim. As this kind of predator would otherwise appear normal the more reason for them to remain incarcerated.

Patrick Johnson   May 17th, 2010 11:29 pm ET

I was writing to you about tommorrow's election's. I think we will find out what the people want. As a bipartisian I hope that people vote for the greater good of the country. We need better protection as consumers from credit card companies so they can't rip us off anymore. I still remember you covering the Manuel Noreiga conflict.Keep up the good work. Fight credit card companies!

Gary Bowden   May 18th, 2010 12:13 am ET

I say have the victim's families have a crack at those lowlifes.People that rape/molest/kill a child shouldn't have ANY rights!!!! We have let our children down by not protecting them.

Rickie   May 18th, 2010 12:28 am ET

I don’t agree with this decision because it has the potential to be abused by all parties involved. All it takes is for a Physiologist who works for the government to state that someone is such a threat. In addition, it does not address women sexual predators. We all know that there is a different standard when it comes to sex crimes and women.

Brent   May 18th, 2010 12:37 am ET

If it was your Father, brother, uncle, sister, aunt or any other family member who commited a sex crime you wouldnt be so quick to say lock them up for life. I find it comical that people would even think that this is apporiate or civily correct. We are headed towards communism as we speak. Change the laws and the sentencing guidlines and that will fix the problem. Sorry Dodie but your statistics are way off. Sex offenders have one of the lowest recidvism rates among convicted felons. Check your states crime statistics and I promise its true. You are off your rocker if you think that someone who is a sex offender has hurt 117 children as 90 % of sex offenses are 1st time offenses and 90 % are against family members. Some people simply make a mistake and are of no danger to society. I do agree that people who commit sex crimes, as well as any crime should be evaluated properly by a trained psy person, but to lock people up for life for touching a boob or grabing a butt may be just a bit much. Rape a child, go to jail for life. Murder, of course jail for life. Other than that the punishment needs to fit the crime period. I have 3 children by the way, and Im all for protecting them, but when someones sentence is up they need to be released.

gerald Jolly   May 18th, 2010 8:24 am ET

In my opinion, and there is enough documented data that tell us that the rate of re-offending is near the 82% rate.

Therefore I am of the opinion that a sex offender, particularly of children should be locked up forever, with no chance of parole, and parole should only be granted if the offender agrees to complete castration.

Tom   May 18th, 2010 9:41 am ET

This is a slippery slope that the government is treading on. While I no more want sexual predators out on the streets (I helped capture one grooming my daughter), I wonder where this ends.

The judicial system is based on 1) we would rather let 100 criminals go than to punish one innocent man and 2) punishment is served and then released.. he paid his debt to society.

Keeping someone locked up indefinitely (without due process) smacks of exactly the things many of our ancestors left their countries to escape. Hell, why not just put a bullet in their head. It would be easier and cheaper.

Instead of breaking the constitution (or at least the intent) why don't the states consider changing the laws surrounding sexual predators so that this isn't an issue. Make the sentence range from current minimums up to life. The court can then decide if he is dangerous enough to remain forever locked away with regular parole hearings with psychiatric input. This completely avoids the problem without having the Federal government (already too big and too powerful with the illegal homeland security act) be able to dictate who can be sealed away.

Anne   May 18th, 2010 10:01 am ET

Dodie – Your "statistics" are over 20 years old and are way off. Sexual offenders do not molest an average of 117 children. Thank god you don't live in the age of the salem witch trials, you would have burned them alll!!!

Brent – You could not have said it better. Thank you.

Dodie   May 18th, 2010 8:37 pm ET

@ Anne

I am certainly aware of the year!!!! If you could find anything more recent, have at it.

The typical child sex offender molests an average of 117 children, “most of who do not report the offence”. (If you read the entire sentence Anne, you will see with clearer vision)

If you also notice it was mentioned in this “published research” that most do not report the offence. That is a true statement. I worked as a child sex abuse investigator (front lines). These are not random numbers I am gathering from outer space and the reason I cited “published research” due to the staggering numbers. You have no idea how many times we deal with the same offender over and over again and over again. It is like a revolving jail/prison door. The sex offender does not become statistics unless the case is “substantiated” which can be very complicated, especially if the mother is not willing to protect for whatever reason (usually using drugs or afraid to be alone).

The law in my state is explicit: The child or an immediate family member residing in the home during the alleged incident must come forward and substantiate the sexual abuse or the sex abuser is free to abuse again. If you want to see with clearer eyes, read up on [California Penal Code Section 273d]. I rest my case!

Dodie   May 18th, 2010 10:05 pm ET


Your intelligent posts are always with incredible clarity! When "discussing compulsion or simple perversion" as the cause, the individual starts with the obsession then transforms into compulsion. The compulsion is the behavior resulting from the cognitive process of obsession.

That is the reason for hope, as these individuals can change their cognitive process in a different direction before they move into action; therefore, having the ability of not repeating these unacceptable behaviors. We all have varying degrees of obsessions; however, most of our obsessions do not involve harming others. Thank You, Ikhan!

Rick   May 19th, 2010 12:30 am ET

The sad truth is that sex offenders are treated as non-citizens even after they complete their sentence due to available sex offender registry's, these laws and the new supremen court ruling are in violation of the constitution and "ex-post facto" law that states that you cannot continue to punish someone "after the fact." Yet these laws are passed as statutes, a loophole in the system.... Dodle's facts are laughable, though the sad part is people think this way in large numbers! The truth is that sex offenses are the largest growing segment of crime in the US. 15 years ago there were approximately 26,000 sex offenders in the US, today, NYC has more sex offenders alone! The lowest age of a person on the registry is 8, yes 8!! Teens are being subjected to life registration due to the fact that an 18 or 19 year old had sex with their boy or girlfriend who is 15 or 16 and the parents reported it. Sexting, a big craze now is child pornography and can land both the person sending their OWN pic and the person receiving it in jail and registered for life... These are true facts. And the sad part is the really dangerous offenders are getting lost due to the fact that the police are overwhelmed with the sudden surge over the past 10 years... Politicians are CONSTANTLY making new offender laws cause its an automatic win for them, taking more and more rights away from families and minor sex offenders that just want to get on with their lives. And the ugly truth is that things are going to get much worse before they get better.... Remeber the quote by Martin Niemoller!!

Christopher   May 19th, 2010 12:55 am ET

The fact is that the Supreme Court got it wrong on this issue.

Need I remind people that at one point, having sex with blacks if you were white, heterosexuality outside of marriage, and homosexuality were illegal and punishable by time in prison?

It is simply time to realize that pedoSEXUALITY is a normal sexuality, one that has been bashed on by religious people who are desperately looking for another 'boogie man' to get people to believe in their imaginary 'god'.

I'll be blunt: I had sex with adults as a child, and loved it! I NEVER thought, and still don't think, that I was 'abused' and it was those pedosexuals who taught me that NO ONE has the right to touch me without my permission in any manner whatsoever, and that if EVEN THEY tried to do that? I should go running to an adult.

Jessie from Auckland, NZ   May 19th, 2010 6:04 am ET

Best place for them sadly.

Amy   May 21st, 2010 10:49 am ET

It appears everyone is focused on the crime. I agree this is one of the most repulsive offenses that can be committed. We should look at revising laws concerning this violent act. However, what is to stop the government from making laws that give them the right to hold anyone past their time served because they present a danger to society?

Earl Richmond   May 23rd, 2010 4:03 pm ET

Bottom barrel line. Whose rights do we protect? The repeat offender or the next innocent child?

Steven Yoon   July 4th, 2010 5:53 am ET

Individuals who rape and kill are not just sex offenders, they are psychopaths and are exceptionally rare. Did you know that treatment for former offenders has proven effective and that most sex offenders never commit another crime? Did you know that the sex offender registries have been proven to be ineffective? Did you also know that making it more difficult for former offender to reintegrate into society increases recidivism?

Would you like more *FACTS* that would actually help keep society safe? If so, look at this website:

CanadiansForAJustSociety [dot] webs [dot] com

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