Civil Commitment Laws for Sex Offenders

In the wake of New York's passing a law last week allowing sex offenders to be held in civil confinement after their prison terms are up, the New York Times examines the dubious wisdom of such laws.

Here's a snippet:

only a small fraction of committed offenders have ever completed treatment to the point where they could be released free and clear. Leroy Hendricks, a convicted child molester in Kansas, finished his prison term 13 years ago, but he remains locked up at a cost to taxpayers in that state of $185,000 a year — more than eight times the cost of keeping someone in prison there.

Mr. Hendricks, who is 72 and unsuccessfully challenged his confinement in the Supreme Court, spends most days in a wheelchair or leaning on a cane, because of diabetes, circulation ailments and the effects of a stroke. He may not live long enough to “graduate” from treatment.

As the Times notes, very few will. This is a six page article that examines the flaws and mistaken assumptions in these laws.


Prosecutorial indiscretion is but one aspect:

...some prosecutors seek commitment for others convicted of noncontact crimes like public exposure. In Florida, prosecutors tried unsuccessfully to civilly commit a man who was imprisoned for driving drunk even though his last sex arrest was decades earlier.

There's lots more, go read the whole thing. As far as I'm concerned, to tout Eliot Spitzer's new law is like buying a pig in a poke.

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    there's no "dubious wisdom" (none / 0) (#1)
    by cpinva on Sun Mar 04, 2007 at 02:40:18 AM EST
    in these laws, they are there solely to get someone re-elected, and provide jobs that otherwise wouldn't exist. any actual treatment that occurs is purely incidental.

    Could not agree more (none / 0) (#3)
    by janinsanfran on Sun Mar 04, 2007 at 10:44:39 AM EST
    We have this practice in California, as well as a law requiring that the whereabouts of released sex offenders be made public. Periodically we have a media circus (sells viewers wonderfully) chasing around some guy who is hounded out of a series of places to live.

    I'll admit I'm agnostic on just how much danger these people are to re-offend, but it is very clear who benefits from the laws: politicians and media clowns.


    Is it the "wisdom" of the idea... (none / 0) (#2)
    by Deconstructionist on Sun Mar 04, 2007 at 10:09:24 AM EST
      motivating such law  or the specifics of these laws and their implementation that is in question?

      Is it a bad idea to confine and seek to treat persons who present a high risk to harm others?

      Is it a good idea to release them into society without effort to safeguard potential victims?

      Do no sex offenders pose a high risk of harm to others if given their liberty?

      I'd say the answer to those questions is no.

       The question would seem then to devolve to how best to achieve the very reasonable goal of protecting others.  Issues of:

     -- identifying which sex offenders pose an a risk that cannot be managed through post-release supervision and monitoring and which do not.

    -- can effective treatment programs be developed and implemented.

    -- how much money is or can be made  available.

    -- is sufficient due process afforded offenders seeking to challenge classifications and to seek the least restrictive alternative.

     and others  are very difficult ones and must be addressed.

      Simply asserting "dubious wisdom" provides little meaningful input and seems more focused on stifling meaningful consideration of the issues than advancing it.