Monday, May 17, 2010

What is a "Sentence"?

I don't understand this. It may well make sense, but there are no details yet.

The Supreme Court ruled Monday the federal government has the power to indefinitely keep some sex offenders behind bars 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

UPDATE: If this means that there is a normal hearing, going toward a criminal insanity commitment, then okay. But....if the guy is certifiably insane, how could it be that he could be tried, and sentenced in the first place? I still don't understand.

UPDATE II: Roger Pilon clarifies....


Steven Taylor said...

I have the same reaction and am awaiting details.

Damien said...

From what I gather, these are people who have been considered to be insane and have been committed to a psychiatric institution. I.e. the media's summary is misleading as they wouldn't be "kept behind bars".

mbgillil said...

There are several problems with this. First, as you pointed out, they're either criminals or insane. After their release date, their civil commitment begins... at the high security gig in Butner, NC. It does rather seem like they're more "behind bars" than in a psychiatric institution setting.
While most of these criminals are never going to be determined to be safe enough to reenter public life (making this a life sentence for some who were only sentenced to ~10 years), they get ridiculously expensive psychiatric treatment... which begs the question: If they needed treatment in order to reenter society, why didn't it begin, I don't know, BEFORE THEY WERE SCHEDULED TO BE RELEASED?!
If these types of criminals are so very dangerous, then give them longer sentences. The fact remains that they recidivate at lower levels than most other violent criminals. What separates them from these other offenders is a political incentive that allows legislators to appear "tough on sex offenders."

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