Monday, May 17, 2010

Supreme Court Upholds Indefinite Confinement of Some Sex Offenders

The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the federal law authorising the civil commitment of sex offenders.

According to the New York Times, the civil commitment law allowed the federal government to continue to detain prisoners who had engaged in sexually violent conduct, suffered from mental illness and would have difficulty controlling themselves. If the government was able to prove all of this to a judge by “clear and convincing” evidence — a heightened standard, but short of “beyond a reasonable doubt” — the court may hold such prisoners until they are no longer dangerous.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer writing for a 7 to 2 majority held, that the civil commitment law satisfied the standard providing for, “the government’s custodial interest in safeguarding the public from dangers posed by those in federal custody.”

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