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US Supreme Court Upholds Indefinite Confinement 745

Posted by kdawson
from the going-somewhere? dept.
An anonymous reader points out the news that the US Supreme Court today upheld a law that allows the federal government to keep prison inmates behind bars beyond the end of their sentences, if officials determine they may be "sexually dangerous" in the future. The case involves one Graydon Comstock, who was certified as "dangerous" six days before his 37-month federal prison term for processing child pornography was to end. The vote was 7 to 2. Three of the justices who concurred with the decision raised an objection to the broadness of the language used in the majority opinion, written by Justice Kennedy.
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US Supreme Court Upholds Indefinite Confinement

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 17, 2010 @07:01PM (#32246278)

    No, I can't think of any ways this could be abused.

  • Scope (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Skyshadow (508) * on Monday May 17, 2010 @07:01PM (#32246282) Homepage

    Reading about this today, I found that the scope of this particular decision is less scary than I initially assumed -- it's limited to prisoners who meet a standard as being "sexually dangerous", so they're not just being held without due process. Apparently this applies to about 100 prisoners nationwide.

    The trouble here is that we, as a society, have real trouble in applying common sense in our legal system. You start with an obvious good thing (keeping violent sex offenders behind bars) and it grows into something completely different -- consider the way the term "sex offender" has been distorted. Once you start allowing this sort of action, where's the protection that keeps it from growing into something else?

    Are we going to start seeing 18 year-olds locked up forever because they had sex with a girl a few months younger than them? It sounds silly, but we already routinely label this a "sex offense". Will taking a drunken piss in an alley set you up for decades in prison? Again, common sense says that's ridiculous but again, it can already get you labeled as a sex offender.

    Until we figure out a way to legislate in a way that applies some degree of common sense, this sort of thing just can't be allowed.

    • The real problem (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dreamchaser (49529)

      The real problem is the sentencing guidelines. A true child rapist should go away for life in prison. Then this wouldn't be an issue. I am not talking about statutory rapists, I mean the ones who really prey on children.

      • Crazy talk! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by TiggertheMad (556308) on Monday May 17, 2010 @07:27PM (#32246618) Homepage Journal
        The real problem is the sentencing guidelines. A true child rapist should go away for life in prison. Then this wouldn't be an issue. I am not talking about statutory rapists, I mean the ones who really prey on children.

        Woah, my hypocritical bullshit detector just flashed defcon 5...

        You should a child rapist be put in prison for any longer than any other sort of rapist? How is it any more acceptable to rape a 21 year old woman than it is a child? This sounds like a typical 'OMG, we must protect the children' hysteria that clouds and distorts this sort of discussion. I don't care if you rape a 3 year old girl or a 35 year old man who is a master of 14 martial arts, a persons degree of ability to defend themselves does not mitigate the crime.
        • Re:Crazy talk! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by dreamchaser (49529) on Monday May 17, 2010 @07:41PM (#32246766) Homepage Journal

          You're actually right. Any rapist should go away for life.

          • Re:Crazy talk! (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Wonko the Sane (25252) * on Monday May 17, 2010 @08:02PM (#32247042) Journal

            I would agree only if the definition of rape was tightened up a bit from what it is currently. If we're talking about clear-cut acts of violence then sure, just don't count, "I didn't really want to but I didn't want to say no either because then he might have broken up with me" as rape.

        • Re:Crazy talk! (Score:4, Informative)

          by Beyond_GoodandEvil (769135) on Monday May 17, 2010 @08:16PM (#32247168) Homepage
          You should a child rapist be put in prison for any longer than any other sort of rapist? How is it any more acceptable to rape a 21 year old woman than it is a child? This sounds like a typical 'OMG, we must protect the children' hysteria that clouds and distorts this sort of discussion. I don't care if you rape a 3 year old girl or a 35 year old man who is a master of 14 martial arts, a persons degree of ability to defend themselves does not mitigate the crime.
          Ummm, see Duke Lacrosse fiasco, and several other times when rape isn't violent and consent believed to have been given. A 3 year old girl is in no way capable of giving consent whereas a 35 year old man could and then after the fact change his mind and claim consent wasn't given. So unless you are prepared to get a signed notarized affidavit of consent prior to every sexual encounter be careful how much you wish to place all rapists in the same boat. See also viral nature of child molestation, 35 yr men who are raped rarely run around raping others. Children who are molested can become molesters as adults.
        • Re:Crazy talk! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by arth1 (260657) on Monday May 17, 2010 @09:04PM (#32247576) Homepage Journal

          And, for that matter, what makes rape any worse than any other violation of the body? What makes having sex with an unwilling person worse than, say, breaking someone's kneecaps?

          Yes, rape is a bad crime, but some people treat it like it's worse than murder. In which case I can't help asking "would it have been better if the rapist had killed the victim instead?"

          IMO, we need to get past the monotheistic revenge based justice system, and start examining why violence happens and address that. Both at a society level and a perosnal level. How can we best prevent Joe Perp from becoming Joe Recidivist. Sure, locking him away for life is one option, but far from the best one. I fear that all it teaches other potential perpetrators is "don't get caught".

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by couchslug (175151)

        "A true child rapist should go away for life in prison. "

        They should be permanently confined in an insane asylum instead. That isn't "punishment", and can last a lifetime without fuss. There is greater scope for controlling them, such as involuntary administration of drugs to make them docile and convenient for staff to handle.

        Society doesn't need such people, it's inconvenient to kill them, but no one can quibble with a "medical" solution.

        • Re:The real problem (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Lemmy Caution (8378) on Monday May 17, 2010 @07:37PM (#32246724) Homepage

          I agree with you in theory - that a custody meant to protect society at large should be distinguished from a punitive one. But we don't really agree that incarceration is meant to be punitive: we think it might be rehabilitative, or protective, as well. Prisons have become places that have slid back into pre-modern forms of punishment, meted out by other prisoners rather than by the state. Perhaps the anxiety about distinguishing between punitive and protective incarceration after conviction is about a reluctance to recognize that other prisoners are now effectively delegated by the state to punish each other.

        • by cdrguru (88047) on Monday May 17, 2010 @07:59PM (#32246996) Homepage

          Too bad we closed nearly all of the "insane asylums" in the 1970's as being impossibly sadistic and cruel. The people were dumped out on the streets and became the homeless population. But we stopped being so sadistic and cruel as to have these people confined against their will.

          Yeah, I am not a big fan of closing those places. We now have mostly nice hospitals with Occupational Therapy making pots and collages for bored housewives with depression. The number of places where you can put someone like John Hinkley today is pretty much less than 10. The number of slots is extremely limited.

          I believe the reason the scope of possible treatment for really mentally ill people in prison is so limited is to prevent the reoccurence of any sort of state hospital system as existed before the 1970's. There were plenty of places then, and plenty of people filling these places up. What happened to all of these people? Well, they are in regular prisons and they are on the streets today. There is nowhere else.

          The will of the people decided this matter back in the 1970s and nobody seems to want to change the state of things now.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Kpau (621891)
            Its always fascinating to me how few people *know* that little history bit about the asylums and the soon-after appearance of the terminally homeless.
      • Re:The real problem (Score:4, Interesting)

        by commodore64_love (1445365) on Monday May 17, 2010 @07:38PM (#32246744) Journal

        If only it were that simple. What if the "child" that was "raped" is a Lolita-type that deliberately seduces and encourages older men into her bed? Seems to me they should both be in jail..... or better yet, allow an exception for sex that is consensual, as when Jerry Lee Lewis had sex with a 14 year old (whom he eventually married).

        POINT: The world is not black-and-white. Neither should be the punishments. A life sentence for doing what Nature designed us to do (procreate like rabbits/ rut like Romeo & Juliet) is ridiculous and foolish. I'd say 10 years top.... 20 if its a repeat offender. But not life.

    • "sexually dangerous" (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 17, 2010 @07:11PM (#32246400)

      This definition includes people who were NEVER ACCUSED OF HAVING ACTUAL SEX with anyone. And could be applied to anyone convicted of any crime at termination of sentence.

      NOT good.

    • The other important point here is that today they limited the application of life without parole, saying it was cruel and unusual punishment to apply to a juvenile who had not committed a murder. This bring America closer in line with with the human rights standards of the Western World.

    • Re:Scope (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater AT gmail DOT com> on Monday May 17, 2010 @07:12PM (#32246424) Homepage

      Reading about this today, I found that the scope of this particular decision is less scary than I initially assumed -- it's limited to prisoners who meet a standard as being "sexually dangerous", so they're not just being held without due process.

      Due process means appearing before a jury of your peers, or at least before a judge, with an opportunity to face your accuser and to defend yourself - not that some bureaucrat makes out a report and then another bureaucrat throws away the key to your cell.
       
      Furthermore, they're not making the decision to confine on the basis of evidence, they're making it on the basic of assumptions and one person's judgment.
       
      If you aren't scared, you should be. Very scared.

    • Re:Scope (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TheMeuge (645043) on Monday May 17, 2010 @07:13PM (#32246438)

      Once you start allowing this sort of action, where's the protection that keeps it from growing into something else?

      Are we going to start seeing 18 year-olds locked up forever because they had sex with a girl a few months younger than them?

      Undoubtedly. If we can put two 16-year-olds in prison for taping themselves having sex (and not sharing with anyone) as "manufacturers of child pornography", and put at this point hundreds of teenagers on the "sex offender list" for texting each other their private parts, then yes, it is likely that with this decision in the near future we will see teenagers go to prison forever, because they defied their teacher, the cops, or just some prude who couldn't get laid if he/she tried.

      Until we figure out a way to legislate in a way that applies some degree of common sense, this sort of thing just can't be allowed.

      Well, evidently not only is it allowed, but our highest court agrees also. So I guess you're on the losing side of the issue. Before someone goes through your cache and locates a thumbnail, which has a 17 +364 day old doing naughty things and thus puts you in prison for life, you better get with the program. Cause in a dictatorship of the bureaucracy, you'll find that dissent of any sort will result in the entire collection of laws to be applied to you. And at this point, we've got enough laws to make anyone a criminal, as long as you try hard enough.

    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday May 17, 2010 @07:14PM (#32246446)

      If it can be over applied, it almost certainly will be. As a great example look at California's "3 strikes" law. It was sold as a law that would get the worst repeat offenders gone. After all, if you've committed 3 serious crimes, it is clear jail isn't doing anything in terms of rehabilitation or deterrence, it is just time to remove you so you can't commit crimes. Sounds good... Except that it gets applied to all sorts of things. There is a guy who's in prison for life with his 3rd strike being a shoplifting charge. As such the jails there are extremely overcrowded and the federal government is having to step in and force them to release people because the conditions are so bad.

      Well, that is just what happens. Also, it tends to happen even worse whenever sex is involved. Sex crimes have the ability to cause a total brain shutdown in much of the population. You say "sex offender" and people automatically think "Forcible rape of a young child." So any proposed law that is anything but the toughest possible on "sex offenders" gets outrage as a response because you aren't "Protecting the children."

      So yes, such a thing can and will be over applied.

      • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Monday May 17, 2010 @07:50PM (#32246874)

        There is a guy who's in prison for life with his 3rd strike being a shoplifting charge.

        Furthermore, it has the effect of making life more dangerous for cops and the law-abiding. It turns people who are at risk of being busted for a third strike into caged animals. Someone who has just commited shoplifting and sees the store security coming after him is a lot more likely to shot or knife them, or anyone nearby in order to make his get away. A 2-striker who gets pulled over with a joint or even just a crack-pipe in his car is now a lot more likely to pull an OJ and try to make a break for it, endangering everybody else on the road with him.

        The path to hell is paved with good intentions and the guys driving the paver are blind lead-foots.

    • Re:Scope (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ceoyoyo (59147) on Monday May 17, 2010 @07:19PM (#32246518)

      "Once you start allowing this sort of action, where's the protection that keeps it from growing into something else?"

      Well, you could look at the rest of the world and see if anybody has tried the experiment for you.

      Canada, the UK and Denmark all have dangerous offender laws that allow indefinite confinement. None of them has anything like the prison population the US does, or locks up 18 year olds forever because they had sex with a girl a few months younger than they are (I don't believe that's even mildly illegal in any of the three).

    • Re:Scope (Score:4, Funny)

      by PPH (736903) on Monday May 17, 2010 @07:27PM (#32246622)

      Are we going to start seeing 18 year-olds locked up forever because they had sex with a girl a few months younger than them?

      Good question. I'd say this will make most horny 18 year olds think twice about their choices.

      On a related note, I'd say the cougar lobby considers this to be a win.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bobcat7677 (561727)
      I think this is a very dangerous precedent all around.

      First of all, as the parent alluded to, there is a tendency for "scope creep" in any exception to any law.

      Secondly, it's quite obvious that the justices were trying to acknowledge a deficiency in the current laws, however to hand down a verdict like this is a great example of the "slippery slope".. Ultimately, this gives a lot of power to government to do stuff like setup "Gitmo"s for it's own citizens that some official declares to be "dangerou
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by cdrguru (88047)

        Dangerous? Maybe. The problem is that no elected official wants to be the one standing in front of the camera justifying why some guy with a known history of raping and killing little girls (or boys) was let out of jail and given the opportunity to do it again.

        Elected officials are a little concerned about making such an appearance, because the news media is going to go after them and bring it out come election time. This pretty much means that letting someone like this out ends the career of some politic

        • Re:Scope (Score:4, Insightful)

          by TruthSauce (1813784) on Monday May 17, 2010 @11:48PM (#32248758)

          Allowing the victim to dictate the sentencing of a perpetrator is a fundamental issue that runs contrary to every aspect of modern western justice.

          There are discussions of this ranging back to Socrates and Plato, Voltaire, Adam Smith and Thomas Jefferson.

          They all agree that this is not a suitable punishment. In the animal kingdom, it is not uncommon for instinct to dictate that an animal who has set foot on your "turf" should be viscerally executed with your bare hands. Obviously this is an extreme example, but it lays the foundation for the deleterious effect that this argument would have on the justice system as a whole.

          Additionally, the concept of "absolute safety" in society is another significant negative force on personal liberty during the last several decades. The concept that everyone has a "right" to complete safety at all times that trumps various other long-held freedoms is a serious issue that can't be dismissed.

          Just like little Polly's father is very angry at the crime, the perpetrator likely has a family who is equally as disturbed at his incarceration. While you can easily dehumanize him by calling him a "monster" or whatever other phrase suits your emotional decorum, you are making an enormous ontological jump to convince yourself that your view is justified.

          We have a justice system that dictates punishment, partially for punitive and partially for rehabilitative purposes. Currently, the system in the United States hands out nearly 4-times the prison sentence for this crime as any other western democracy and, yet, we still have the highest rates of all of these victimizing crimes.

          Perhaps we should stop to think about what it is in the vengeful attitude with which we approach justice that causes our society to have such high rates of violence and victimization and look abroad. Sweden has one of the lowest rates of child sexual assault in the world. They also adopt a very permissive attitude regarding teen sex and homosexuality and have relatively short sentences, focused on rehabilitation (which appears to be very successful for them). There is no sex offender registry. In fact, a private group set one up last year, and there was a massive public protest in opposition to it. Police forced the owner to take the site down immediately as it violates Swedish privacy laws.

          It's interesting to look at countries that adopt a different posture about these issues and try to educate ourselves. Perhaps we might wonder why we have such high rates of violence and why we have such high rates of victimization and then peer at our reactions to those things and question if they are, indeed, legitimate or useful and not simply our slobbering animal instinct lashing out at things we don't understand, or decide are "gross".

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Locke2005 (849178)
      Look at the Lawrence Taylor case... he paid for sex with a young woman, may or may not have known she was underage, and now he is labeled a "rapist" and a "sex offender". Bad judgment and criminal activity, sure... but was rape really his intent?
    • Re:Scope (Score:5, Insightful)

      by BitterOak (537666) on Monday May 17, 2010 @09:12PM (#32247638)

      Reading about this today, I found that the scope of this particular decision is less scary than I initially assumed -- it's limited to prisoners who meet a standard as being "sexually dangerous", so they're not just being held without due process. Apparently this applies to about 100 prisoners nationwide.

      One of whom had only a 37 month sentence for possession of child pornography. No mention that he had ever touched a child. Extending a sentence from 37 months to life is pretty severe. The potential for abuse of this process is staggering. Who gets to decide if someone is "sexually dangerous"? A doctor? What are the rules of evidence and due process requirements for the forum in which that determination is made? Does someone even have to be convicted of a crime for them to be labelled as "sexually dangerous"? This is by far the most frightening decision I've seen the SCOTUS hand down in my lifetime.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Hatta (162192)

      Reading about this today, I found that the scope of this particular decision is less scary than I initially assumed -- it's limited to prisoners who meet a standard as being "sexually dangerous", so they're not just being held without due process. Apparently this applies to about 100 prisoners nationwide.

      The thing is with governments, if you give them an inch they take a mile. And when they overstep their authority, there's never, ever, ever, even the tiniest little bit of repercussion for it. I would fee

  • Indefinite? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by digitalunity (19107) <digitalunity.yahoo@com> on Monday May 17, 2010 @07:03PM (#32246306) Homepage

    My biggest problem is this: What other crimes can criminals commit deeming them too dangerous for society? What's the point of a fixed length sentence at all for individuals who are likely to be dangerous after release? What about murderers and/or serial rapists who show no remorse or signs of rehabilitation?

    What about repeat domestic abusers?

    Drunk drivers(have you seen recidivism rates?)?

    What about repeat moving violators?

    It's a slippery slope.

  • by guspasho (941623) on Monday May 17, 2010 @07:05PM (#32246334)

    This is how liberty dies. First they claim that terrorists don't have rights, then they claim sex offenders don't have rights. Before you know it, nobody will have any rights.

  • ColdGate (Score:5, Insightful)

    by webbiedave (1631473) on Monday May 17, 2010 @07:06PM (#32246354)
    FTA: "The fact that the federal government has the authority to imprison a person for the purpose of punishing him for a federal crime — sex-related or otherwise — does not provide the Government with the additional power to exercise indefinite civil control over that person," Justice Thomas wrote.

    Makes sense to me. If the crime deserves a longer sentence, then impose a longer sentence. But let's not cherry pick after the fact.
  • by ciaran_o_riordan (662132) on Monday May 17, 2010 @07:13PM (#32246430) Homepage

    Here's the supremes' decision:

    From working on the Bilski case, I've ended up reading a dozen US Supreme Court decisions, and I've found them surprisingly readable. There are times when you just have to accept that something has a meaning that you don't know, but even with these gaps, the remaining text is usually coherent.

  • by exasperation (1378979) on Monday May 17, 2010 @07:13PM (#32246440)

    Canadian law, and I generally consider Canada to be a free society, has the possibility of indefinite detention if someone is found to be a dangerous offender, and likely to reoffend. It's not very often used, mostly in the most grievous murder and sexual assault cases.

    Wikipedia has more information: Dangerous Offender [wikipedia.org]

  • Misleading Summary (Score:3, Informative)

    by Blackeagle_Falcon (784253) on Monday May 17, 2010 @07:44PM (#32246798)
    The decision today doesn't have anything to do with the the fundamental ability of the government to indefinitely detain sex offenders after they've served their sentence. The court decided that back in 1997 in Kansas v. Hendricks. Todays decision was just about whether the federal government has such power. This is a federalism case, not an individual rights case.
  • Unbelieveable (Score:4, Interesting)

    by shellster_dude (1261444) on Monday May 17, 2010 @08:22PM (#32247220)
    I am extremely conservative. I have two immediate family members who have been raped and several very close friends. I do not believe the US has any current punishment which is fitting for horrible destruction that rape causes. And yet...

    I am incredibly enraged that the Supreme Court would rule that it is Constitutional to violate the 5th Amendment Due Process clause because of the children. If you want to give them counseling, then put a prescribed amount in the sentence. The courts have ruled that "life" sentences violate due process, and yet holding them indefinitely for counseling doesn't?

    Emotion should, from time to time, temper the application of law, but never the application of rights ~ shellsterdude.
  • by dirkdodgers (1642627) on Monday May 17, 2010 @08:37PM (#32247358)

    I'm not sure it's possible to praise justices Scalia and Thomas on Slashdot without be marked as a Troll, but I'm about to.

    There is a lesson in this to be learned by all of those who rail against justices like Scalia and Thomas when they vote contrary to your personal beliefs about social issues.

    This is at the core of the difference between tyranny and a constitutional republic.

    As Edward Kennedy recently put it, are we a nation of laws, or a nation of men? Today we see again that we are merely a nation of men, ruled by the arbitrary will of an unelected few, rather than by a constitution designed to protect at all costs the liberty of the few from the will of the many.

    If you don't like the constitution, we have process in place to change it for exactly that reason. We have many times before. That's the agreement you and I have as members of a civilized, free society. If you think you can walk all over the peoples' document when it becomes an obstacle to your social agenda: FUCK YOU.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 17, 2010 @10:20PM (#32248168)
      I agree. Every time you start thinking that Scalia or Thomas might be clouds of prejudices in search of legal justifications, they return a dissent like this, standing on principle over an immensely unpopular and emotional issue (Alito, on the other hand...). It is also true that every justice has issues on which he or she is more willing to find, say, a "compelling interest" than on others; there is rarely a more perfect illustration of that reality than this case.

      The challenge to the civil commitment law was brought by five prisoners. The case of Graydon Comstock was typical. In November 2006, six days before Mr. Comstock was to have completed a 37-month sentence for receiving child pornography, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales certified that Mr. Comstock was a sexually dangerous person.

      Last year, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in Richmond, Va., unanimously ruled that none of the powers granted to Congress in the Constitution empowered it to authorize such civil commitments. But the decision was stayed, and Mr. Comstock has remained confined in a federal prison.

      A three year sentence (for looking at porn) becomes a sort of "indefinite detention" (still in federal prison!) by the fiat of a cabinet member with minimal judicial oversight, and a seven-justice "liberal" majority hands down a ruling more authoritarian than the (unanimous) Fourth Circuit. Shit.

      Personally I find this ruling considerably more despicable and dangerous than the Alito-Scalia-Thomas dissent in the narrow Graham v. Florida ruling (majority: no JLWOP sentences, except for homicide). That dissent was extremely conservative, and perhaps Scalia and Thomas' definitions of "cruel" punishment are regressive and have not changed with the times, but even the majority didn't hand down some kind of progressive ultimatum. Now juvenile criminals--who didn't kill anyone--must be offered the chance of parole...eventually. In Comstock, on the other hand, a larger majority, led by "liberal" justices, gave the government the right to indefinitely imprison U.S. citizens (four of whom were perfectly, legally sane when they were convicted) on the grounds that any sex-crime conviction (even totally non-violent ones) is sufficient de facto evidence of mental illness (after conviction) for civil commitment. *Chirping of crickets*. Is this legal reasoning coming from a seven-justice majority of the Supreme Court, or from Comrade Breyer of the Politburo? Perhaps we could also charge the prisoners for their "treatment?"

      The court observes that "Congress has long been involved in the delivery of mental health care to federal prisoners, and has provided for their civil commitment." I'm sure the plaintiffs appreciate the "mental health care" they are receiving in a federal penitentiary. This could become a gaping hole through which the fifth, sixth and eighth Amendments could plummet. You thought the commerce clause was abused? Now the government has necessary and proper powers to implement unconstitutional ones (though the court "assumed but did not decide" the constitutionality of the powers themselves, embracing a rather convenient opportunity to abandon "judicial activism," it seems).

      I would take issue with the assertion that we are "ruled by the arbitrary will of an unelected few," however. An unelected few has failed to prevent the tyranny of the majority (by the hand of another unelected few), but the policies they endorsed are hardly unpopular. Some of the blame lies with the people. Eroding Miranda polls very well, too; ultimately the constitution can only limit the government if people believe that it does. Even the judiciary is ultimately appointed by an elected government. The notion that we are a nation of laws must itself be popular, because democracy (even the republican sort) is an inherently unstable mechanism.

  • Mental Illness (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Monday May 17, 2010 @08:43PM (#32247394) Homepage Journal

    If sex offenders are mentally ill, which caused their behavior, and are still ill that way when their sentence is up, then they shouldn't be released. They probably shouldn't be in jail, either. They should be in a psychiatric jail.

    The law in the US regarding sickness vs criminality is so screwed up that there's little chance people's rights will be protected when their illness creates either harm or risk to other people.

  • by SetupWeasel (54062) on Monday May 17, 2010 @08:54PM (#32247498) Homepage

    When I agree with Scalia and Thomas and no one else on a Supreme Court decision. You cannot change the rules of incarceration. There is a sentence. If you want to hold prisoners longer make the sentence longer. You could even make the possibility of additional comfinement, but you can't make the sentence a court gave them any longer without a new trial.

    Well I guess you can now. Who the fuck cares about the Constitution? No one. No one who matters anyway.

  • by meburke (736645) on Monday May 17, 2010 @09:13PM (#32247640)

    TOA was a little misleading. I originally had the impression that the guy got 37 months for receiving kiddie porn, and that the issue was whether he was likely to look at kiddie porn again. Uh-oh!... We'd better lock up those picture lookers for LIFE! (Wouldn't it be cheaper to just blind them?)

    Actually, the issue is: Once the Government has a dangerous (and dangerous is pretty well-defined) criminal incarcerated, and they know that he/she is not rehabilitated or mentally stable, is the Government entitled to protect society by keeping him locked up until either a State or institution takes custody and care? Yeah, there are some issues about incarcerating someone for something he might do in the future, but the general public is too ignorant to evaluate that properly. So, the solution is to preserve the status quo until you can shift the responsibility/blame onto someone else. After all, the perp is already locked up; what difference does a few more years make?

    Considering that a huge number of ex-cons are recidivists, it might be used as an argument to keep everybody locked up forever. I noticed that in the case quoted, it was the State that certified him as "dangerous". Given the demagoguery and hysteria of some of our Texas prosecutors, I'm not sure I trust them to define "dangerous" in any meaningful way.

  • by Ichijo (607641) on Monday May 17, 2010 @09:42PM (#32247856) Homepage Journal

    Why would you let someone go before they've rehabilitated? That's stupid.

    And why would you keep them in prison after they've rehabilitated? That's also stupid.

    So then why sentence a criminal for any number of years at all, when you don't know yet how long it will take? Pulling numbers out of thin air just doesn't sound like a very good idea. Am I way off base here?

  • Castration? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by xjerky (128399) on Monday May 17, 2010 @11:25PM (#32248582)

    If someone is that much of a danger sexually, then why haven't we castrated them? Would that not go a long way in ensuring that they do not commit such a crime again?

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