Last week the Supreme Court ruled that “sexually dangerous” inmates could be held indefinitely in prison, or civil commitment hospital settings, after their prison terms are complete.
The case, decided with a 7-2 ruling, was raised after four men who were deemed sexually dangerous, were held after their prison sentences were over with no end date in sight. The men attempted to prove in the lower courts that indefinite imprisonment based on suspected “future crimes” was unconstitutional.
Twenty states already have laws that allow for indefinite imprisonment of sexually violent predators. This recent Supreme Court ruling supports those states’ decisions and allows other states to institute similar laws.
This topic is one of great debate, because while most people agree that the protection of the public against sex offenders is primary, the implication behind the government being allowed to impose indefinite imprisonment on someone brings up thoughts of Guantanamo Bay. Two Supreme Court justices, Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justice Antonin Scalia, dissented in the case, United States v. Comstock, No. 08-1224 for similar reasons.
“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.
So, what do you think? Is this ruling in the best interest of the public? Is it setting a precedent for the government to indefinitely imprison people for crimes other than sexual offenses? I would love to hear your comments on this controversial ruling!