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US Supreme Court Upholds Indefinite Confinement

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the going-somewhere? dept.

Crime 745

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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Think of the children! (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32246278)

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

Re:Think of the children! (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32246394)

^^^^^^^ Isn't that what got him into trouble in the first place.

Re:Think of the children! (4, Insightful)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246680)

In two heated arguments about child abuse, one seen on Fox News and one I had with a friend, the guys on the "think of the children" side of the argument said that child abuse was so horrible that they couldn't even look at a child without imagining them being molested -- and while they were trying to appeal to emotion, they only ended up looking like creeps. It seems the "think of the children crowd" are the ones with the unhealthy obsession with children.

As usual, people with too much power dedicating their voices to speaking out against what they hate most about themselves:

Larry Craig. [wikipedia.org]
Mark Foley. [wikipedia.org]
Roy Ashburn. [huffingtonpost.com]

Scope (5, Interesting)

Skyshadow (508) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246282)

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.

Re:Scope (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32246312)

Actually it is even more limited than that - they have to be mentally ill as well as "sexually dangerous".

Re:Scope (4, Funny)

Skyshadow (508) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246338)

Actually it is even more limited than that - they have to be mentally ill as well as "sexually dangerous".

Another obvious issue with this ruling is that "Sexually Dangerous" just sounds like a Prince song.

Re:Scope (1)

Warshadow (132109) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246458)

Another obvious issue with this ruling is that "Sexually Dangerous" just sounds like a Prince song.

Hmm maybe, but I'm thinking more Barry White.

Re:Scope (-1, Offtopic)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246570)

I would just like to point out that not only is there a three-digit UID in our midst, but one that is really, really close to being under 500.

Show some respect, fellow slashdotters.

Re:Scope (2, Funny)

inertia@yahoo.com (156602) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246626)

Modded -1, Brown Noser.

Re:Scope (4, Insightful)

MindlessAutomata (1282944) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246386)

Just like not anyone goes to Guantanamo--they also have to be "enemy combatants." Only "enemy combatants" are sent to Guantanamo, right? So it must be OK.

Re:Scope (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246326)

Exactly, we've already been doing this for a hundred years or more to insane people. It may be something to disagree with, but the result here is neither surprising nor is it new.

Re:Scope (5, Funny)

jd (1658) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246382)

No, we only imprison the insane for four years, eight if they're re-elected.

Re:Scope (3, Insightful)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246450)

That's only the Presidency. Senators don't have a limit on re-elections...

Re:Scope (3, Interesting)

jd (1658) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246590)

Yes, but do they meet the criteria for criminal insanity or only the criteria for psychological insanity?

Re:Scope (5, Informative)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246814)

There's a well-known case about a psychologist (sorry forget his name... it was back in the 60s), who deliberately acted insane to get himself committed. He wanted to see what it was really like to live in the asylum. Problem: When he decided his observations were done, and he tried to prove he was "sane" to the staff and just doing an experiment, nobody listened to him. They refused to let him out.

No government, no corporation, no person should have that kind of power. There needs to be a point where that power ends (prison term has ended), and the person is allowed to be free, rather than enslaved for life.

BTW:

The psychologist did eventually get out, but it required a lawsuit and the backing of his university; else he probably would have died there. A sane man trapped inside a flawed system.

Re:Scope (0)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246340)

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.

Common sense has no place in our legal system. The life of the law in this country is not knowledge, but experience. It is reactionary by nature -- and it is the one part of our country's government that is not subject to democratic review. If you want to fix the system... Start by figuring out how to make it democratic. Then cry long and hard when you find out what people really think justice is.

Re:Scope (2, Interesting)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246546)

Democracy is two wolves and a sheep deciding what to have for dinner.

Re:Scope (1)

maitai (46370) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246772)

And the sheep has a gun.

Re:Scope (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246698)

While the justices' oath is fidelity to the Law, the People still hold the ultimate authority, and they can modify Unjust Laws via the following methods:

- petition their Member State's government to nullify U.S. laws that are unconstitutional or anti-liberty (example: Massachusetts & other New England states refused to return escaped slaves to the south, in direct defiance of the Congress)
- jury nullification to block unjust laws, free the person under trail, and thereby check the power of government
- election of representatives to Congress to rewrite the legal code

Re:Scope (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32246768)

You forgot one.

The real problem (3, Insightful)

dreamchaser (49529) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246360)

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.

Re:The real problem (1)

Lunoria (1496339) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246548)

If we're just going to lock people up with no chance to reform or leave, we might as well just execute them instead. It saves money in the long run.

Re:The real problem (3, Informative)

ehrichweiss (706417) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246706)

Can you provide some citations for that? It's always been my experience that it costs far, FAR more to execute someone than to imprison them for life when you take into account that the appeals process is expensive.

Crazy talk! (5, Insightful)

TiggertheMad (556308) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246618)

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! (4, Insightful)

dreamchaser (49529) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246766)

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

Re:Crazy talk! (1)

ehrichweiss (706417) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246816)

It's more acceptable because it's far easier to prey on a child than an adult, and taking advantage of that is enhancement to the crime. If you would like to disagree, tell me how easy it would be to get a 21 year old to enter your van because you lost your puppy versus how easy it would be to get a 5 year old to do so. You might be able to trick 1 in every 1,000 women to enter your van(I'll even allow you to offer free Prada purses or whatever they might be hot for)but your odds of preying on a child are far greater since they don't have the experience to know what you're up to.

Re:The real problem (2, Funny)

couchslug (175151) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246634)

"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 (4, Interesting)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246724)

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.

Re:The real problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32246788)

Society doesn't need such people, it's inconvenient to kill them.

Says you....

But seriously, they can't be fixed* so they can't be released, yet why pay to house them until they die of old age?

*Maybe castration type procedures.

Re:The real problem (3, Interesting)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246744)

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.

Re:Scope (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246384)

it's limited to prisoners who meet a standard as being "sexually dangerous", so they're not just being held without due process.

Who makes that determination? A Judge or some member of the Executive? I had read that the guy who brought the case was condemned to civil confinement when the US Attorney General declared him to be "sexually dangerous".

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.

If we had common sense we would execute the real sickos and make this whole debate about offender registries and civil confinement a moot point. You touch a child and you die. I could get behind that.

Re:Scope (1)

MindlessAutomata (1282944) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246448)

There's a reason I set you as a "fan," Shakrai. You're the only other person who gets it.

All the clowns going, "well, he's been declared sexually dangerous!" That's nice. This is kind of like the "terrorist watch list"/"no-fly list". Recently I read in my newspaper an argument that people on the list shouldn't be allowed to have guns, because they are "terrorists." Ahem.

Re:Scope (5, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246534)

Yeah, I had that argument with someone over the weekend. "Why should people on the watch list be allowed to buy guns?", my response "Why should the Attorney General be able to take away my rights with no due process?" The 5th amendment says that we can't be denied life, liberty or property without due process of law. Somehow I don't think that was meant to cover "The AG takes away your rights but you can appeal his determination if you have the financial resources to do so."

Ah, but it's for the children, so that's ok. Child molestation, DWI, terrorism, etc. All boogieman exploited by those seeking to whittle away at our rights.

Re:Scope (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32246578)

Heh... You can "declare" someone anything. I've difficulties on this one because it strikes me as being outside the Fifth Amendment, even though the Supreme Court ruled the way they did. How can you define "due process" along those lines.

Re:Scope (1)

Kral_Blbec (1201285) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246526)

If we had common sense we would execute the real sickos and make this whole debate about offender registries and civil confinement a moot point. You touch a child and you die. I could get behind that.

I would love to see rape and child porn become capital crimes.

Re:Scope (1)

Iamthecheese (1264298) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246594)

you want people to be executed for a thought crime?

Re:Scope (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246612)

Not to mention how easy it is to find numerous cases of people being falsely accused of such crimes and with a number of them leading to wrongful convictions as well.

Re:Scope (1)

ravenspear (756059) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246606)

Rape I could agree with, however I don't believe people should be executed for thought crimes. Kiddy porn, as disgusting as it is, would fall into that category.

Re:Scope (1)

Antisyzygy (1495469) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246672)

Why is rape so much worse than murder or attempted murder?

Re:Scope (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32246536)

If we had common sense we would execute the real sickos and make this whole debate about offender registries and civil confinement a moot point. You touch a child and you die. I could get behind that.

Because there's no chance of anyone possibly being falsely accused and convicted of such a crime and getting wrongfully executed, right? I mean, it's not as if it's trivially easy to find cases of innocent people being sent to death row and actually being executed, right?!?

Re:Scope (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32246388)

None of your two examples should be a sex offense in a free and modern country.

And the possibility to keep them in prison after their sentence ends is also quite dangerous. Most people will consider it right to keep sex offenders or murderers away from society even beyond their sentences, but once this law is passed, similar regulations for other times of criminals might follow. How long before people who are likely to steal again, to avoid taxes again, to download music again, ... will be locked up forever?

Re:Scope (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32246398)

You should be scared. There was a time when a jury of your peers decided you belonged in prison after a fair and impartial trial. Now, somebody decides (entirely subjectively, mind you) that you might do something illegal in the future so no freedom for you.

Sure, now it's only for "sexually dangerous" as sure as obama is a half nigger, you can guarantee that that "need" for permanent confinement will expand. For the children.

"sexually dangerous" (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Also the same day they limit life without parole (3, Funny)

Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246402)

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 (5, Insightful)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246424)

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 (5, Insightful)

TheMeuge (645043) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

That is the real problem (5, Informative)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Scope (1)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246488)

This worries me - if being 'sexually dangerous' is reason to hold people who have served their term in indefinite detention, is being 'violently dangerous' likewise cause? I'd like to know if there's a precedent.

Re:Scope (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32246510)

"You start with an obvious good thing (keeping violent sex offenders behind bars) and it grows into something completely different..."

Um, this is the case with EVERYTHING the federal government touches. Why do you think the founding fathers initially made the federal government so impotent that it was bankrupt and nearly collapsed? They understood the wickedness of the human heart and the myth of the "good" person. They understood that the government would be full of people. That is, it would be corrupt and self-serving. So they sought to limit its powers. What we have today is a complete bastardization of the government that they left to us.

Re:Scope (3, Insightful)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 4 years ago | (#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 (1)

Antisyzygy (1495469) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246520)

It is pretty bad. What about people that are dangerous but not sexually dangerous? It seems that the law puts higher precedence on sexual crime versus general physical crime. If someone has proven to be a violent offender in general they should be deemed dangerous and left in prison to protect society.

All sex offenders are "sexually dangerous" (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32246552)

The "sexually dangerous" standard is just a semantics trick that allows the government to classify any sex offender as sexually dangerous to keep them imprisoned indefinitely. There's no due process involved in declaring a person as sexually dangerous, so it applies to anybody the government wants it to.

Re:Scope (1)

ndogg (158021) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246566)

The US prison system is fucked up anyway. Most prisoners are mentally ill in some manner, and there are very few programs in the prison systems to deal with that, and so when they get out, they're still dangerous.

In fact, recidivism rates (re-offense after being release) are about 60% within three years in the US (here [infoplease.com] and here [wikipedia.org] ).

The way I see it is that we should do away with the time based punishment for the most part, and have incarceration be based on mental health. Criminals should only get out if they're considered mentally healthy, especially if they're convicted of violent and/or sex crimes.

Re:Scope (1)

ndogg (158021) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246624)

I should revise that. Longer term studies show recidivism rates as high as 94% (here [commercialappeal.com] ).

Re:Scope (3, Funny)

PPH (736903) | more than 4 years ago | (#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:Scope (2, Insightful)

bobcat7677 (561727) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246668)

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 "dangerous". And ultimately it's punishing people for "thought crimes". I don't doubt that these people would commit crimes again, but if they have already served the maximum sentence under current law, they should be set free until they do actually commit another crime. Yeah it sucks sometimes, but that is how our justice system is supposed to work...you get punished for what you have done, not what you "might do". If what they do is so "dangerous" then the laws for punishment should be strong enough to sentence the person to life without parole once they have committed one of those offenses. What ever happened to the law being blind anyway?

Re:Scope (2, Insightful)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246800)

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 politician, somewhere.

Remember Polly Klass? This is pretty much where this is coming from, where the known offender was released and one night kidnapped, raped and killed Polly Klass from her bedroom. Her father made a big deal about how this was allowed to happen.

If you actually believe these people should be set free, start figuring out how to explain it to Polly Klass's father. If you can successfully convince him that these people deserve to be free after their sentance is over, then you have a winner.

Of course, you can't convince him and neither can anyone else. Which is why keeping these people locked up forever is the only solution that exists right now. Why these folks were not given a life sentance to begin with somewhat mystifies me as that would seem to be the "right" solution. But for now with quite a number of child-endangering folks coming up for release I don't see freedom as a possibility. Out of jail on somewhere like Pitcarne Island, maybe but it seems that Pitcarne Island already has plenty of child-raping folks there. Who knows, maybe they would fit right in.

umm (1)

micronix1 (590179) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246286)

processing? did he work in a photo lab or something?

Indefinite? (4, Interesting)

digitalunity (19107) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246306)

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.

Re:Indefinite? (1)

Itninja (937614) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246462)

Dude, that slope was slipped like decades ago. There's a reason why the US has more convicts that any other country in the world.

Re:Indefinite? (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246530)

Drunk drivers(have you seen recidivism rates?)?

Careful, you're talking me into supporting the Court's decision.

Re:Indefinite? (1)

jd (1658) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246554)

The Supreme Court also ruled that children cannot be incarcerated for life without any means of demonstrating being fit for society, with the door left open that any harsh sentence for children must be subject to such review. There was no firm stipulation on the nature of that review or when it took place, only that there had to be one. Presumably, the same ruling would apply to anyone else, provided they could demonstrate reasonable grounds for such a change happening.

Personally, I still assert that sentences should be divided into a punative component and a theraputive component, where the nature of the crime and the nature of the criminal were taken into account on the manner of the dividing. Punative components should never be extensible, that makes no logical sense at all, but I could see a rationale for a theraputive component being extensible on condition that it could never be extended beyond the point that the person met the criteria for reforming, that said criteria could be realistically met and that the criteria made theraputic sense.

This would eliminate the need for a "guilty by reason of insanity" (or indeed "innocent by reason of insanity"), the distinction between criminal insanity and any other kind of insanity or mental illness, the issue of whether a person has paid their dues in the punative sense, indefinite incarceration, and a host of other problematic legal definitions.

(facepalm) (1)

Slugster (635830) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246322)

In the USA, child pornography laws have become the nirvana of the tyrant. (the anti sex-tourism law is blatantly un-Constitutional as well)
~

Re:(facepalm) (1)

Itninja (937614) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246490)

What amendment is that violating exactly? Not that I disagree....

Re:(facepalm) (1)

XanC (644172) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246630)

What amendment is that violating exactly? Not that I disagree....

9th and 10th.

Why just sex? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32246328)

I wonder if they'd do the same for people considered criminally dangerous.

People should not be confined beyond their jail term.If society can only be kept safe from a criminal by confining that person to a mental hospital, subject that criminal to civil commitment procedures just like everybody else. If you think jail sentences are too short, lobby the government to increase the sentences. Just don't imprison people beyond their slated jail terms or commit them to a mental institution without due process.

Slippery Slope (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32246330)

I was really hoping this law was going to be thrown out, I'm all for prison terms, but when there's no limit its really scary.

Niemöller comes to mind (5, Insightful)

guspasho (941623) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Niemöller comes to mind (1)

MindlessAutomata (1282944) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246408)

What country do you live in? I'm not familiar with any that actually properly recognizes human rights.

Re:Niemöller comes to mind (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32246468)

Here in the state of Denial, we still have plenty of rights.

Re:Niemöller comes to mind (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246506)

> What country do you live in? I'm not familiar with any that actually properly recognizes human rights.

What about countries within the EU? They've signed up to Human Rights legislation.

Re:Niemöller comes to mind (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32246716)

Idiot.

Re:Niemöller comes to mind (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32246504)

The situations aren't equivalent. In the case of terrorists, it's not so much that "terrorists don't have rights," it's that "suspected terrorists don't have rights." The recent administrations have claimed the power to lock anyone up without due process or judicial review. That's not how it's supposed to happen.

In this case, the person was convicted in a criminal proceeding and then was civilly committed, again in a judicial proceeding. That's exactly how it's supposed to happen.

Re:Niemöller comes to mind (1)

Bugamn (1769722) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246556)

First, they come for the terrorists And I didn't speak up Because I didn't forget. Then they came for the sex offenders And I didn't speak up Because I think of the children. Then they came for the illegals immigrants And I didn't speak up Because they steal jobs. Then they came for the poor And I didn't speak up Because it cleaned the streets. Who is the next, I wonder, and will anyone speak up?

Re:Niemöller comes to mind (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246776)

well, the words are redefined by power on purpose. Everything is a terrorist plot (like drawing little stick figures on a homework paper [myfoxatlanta.com] ) now and anyone can be accused of being a pedophile etc.

I suggest combining the tags together, what's the difference at this point? So let's already call everyone who does anything a pedophile terrorist and be done with it. Put a fence around the country and don't allow anyone to be let out. Problem solved once and for all.

which is fucking ridiculous drama queen thinking (0, Flamebait)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246794)

this ruling, at worst, is two inches in the direction of tyranny. emphasis: TWO INCHES. for a 200 mile trip to the destination you call "liberty dies". pffffffffft. law is not static. it dithers this way and that like a tree in the breeze. every little perturbation shouldn't send you into hysterical overreaction

you're just a drama queen if you see your government sway slightly this way or slightly that way and you declare its the end of the world, pure tyranny, pure orwell, "liberty dies! OMFG!" ...zzz...

look:: a lot of people point at the hysteria of "someone please think of the children!" well, there's a lot of hysteria here about the true meaning of these rulings. they are not instant gateways to an unstoppable slippery slope to our eternal slavery. overreactive bullshit. they are wanderings, meandering. really!

if you are going to fight the good fight for liberty, know your true enemies. if you can't identify your true threats from your mosquitoes, then you're no help to the defense of liberty at all. your'e a spastic child who doesn't even understand the concepts.

learn it: reaction proportional to threat

threat: a guy with a high chance of recidivism for sexual crimes

proportional reaction: **YAWN**

really, drama queens

you may now castigate me and accuse me of the worst of abuses of freedom. go on, spastic twits, you know you want to do it

zzz

Re:Niemöller comes to mind (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32246804)

Don't worry, Sarah Palin and the Tea Party are coming. Soon you won't think about this Black-Latino-Illegal-Immigrant word, Liberty. What is this thing called Liberty? I am white and Republican so I don't know what is that. Never seen that in Fox news, or at my trailer park. Someone bring me my meth-pipe because as a white American that is the only thing I know how to do. Besides beat my wife and abuse my children, the white Tea Party's preferred sport.

ColdGate (5, Insightful)

webbiedave (1631473) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:ColdGate (1)

Itninja (937614) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246572)

The thing is a good deal of the really scary stuff doesn't come out until after their incarceration. Many prisoners, and sex offenders especially, get compulsory therapy in prison. During these session it's often discovered that they did far worse than, say, feel up their niece. Like stalking neighbor children or raping their neighbors dog (seriously, I volunteer in prisons and this stuff comes out).

That's when the official decide, hey...this guy us a lot more dangerous than we thought....now what do we do? Let me out after 18 months and just hope he 'learns his lesson'?

Re:ColdGate (1)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246738)

Legally, there shouldn't be anything you can do. They have already been tried and sentenced for the crime. Now if they admit to another crime, then they should be tried for that second crime, and if convicted, sentenced to a longer term. Otherwise, anything else is a rather blatant violation of two different parts of the fifth amendment---the right to a trial by your peers (being held indefinitely without a new trial), and double jeopardy (having your sentence changed outside the deliberately limited scope of an appeal under 18 U.S.C. 3742(b) [cornell.edu] ).

Guess we can add the fifth amendment to the list of amendments that our current government doesn't respect right alongside the first, second, and fourth.

Re:ColdGate (1)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246642)

This is the first time in my entire life I've actually agreed with any dissenting opinion written by Thomas or Scalia. This was a dissent by both of them. Suddenly my feet feel very cold.

A free society. (-1, Flamebait)

MindlessAutomata (1282944) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246376)

Now, if only we had a nice, liberal, Democratic judge on the... oh, wait.

Re:A free society. (2, Insightful)

Skyshadow (508) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246444)

Justices decide if the Constitution prohibits a law, not if the law is a good idea.

IANACL (I Am Not A Constitutional Lawyer), but I don't understand how this law would necessarily be unconstitutional -- these people are being given access to due process, and are essentially being held on the same legal basis that the government uses to commit the dangerously mentally ill (which, really, is what these folks are).

This isn't to debate the merits of the law itself, of course, but blaming the Democratic-leaning justices for ruling on the law's constitutionality (esp, in a 7-2 decision) is pretty weak.

Re:A free society. (1)

MindlessAutomata (1282944) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246496)

That means little when the SCOTUS gets to declare what the constitution actually says or means. Sure, the first amendment reads plain as day, but that doesn't stop the SCOTUS from inventing categories such as protected/unprotected speech.

Re:A free society. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32246740)

If they're mentally ill (enough to have their freedoms taken away) then they shouldn't be in jail to begin with---jails are for criminals who were in control of their actions; if those folks are mentally ill, then clearly they're not in control of their actions... (yes, mental institutions may resemble jails, but it's a different type of institution with a different purpose).

Re:A free society. (5, Insightful)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246608)

I take it you don't like the decision?

Then you'd better hope we get more justices like the dissenters... Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justice Antonin Scalia, dissented in the case... (FTFA)

Link to the actual decision (2, Insightful)

ciaran_o_riordan (662132) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246430)

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.

Well, it's not that unusual. (5, Interesting)

exasperation (1378979) | more than 4 years ago | (#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]

Re:Well, it's not that unusual. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32246640)

Yes but in Canadian law, the person that is being subject to indefinite detention must go through a legal process through a judge, that is separate from the trial for the actual crime. In a specific case that I am aware of; Paul Bernardo, the application by the crown (prosecution here in Canada) was submitted at the time that he was convicted and sentenced. The danger here is that the state would summarily prevent release after the individuals sentence was completed, without any form of recourse by the convicted person. This could be used as a way to extend a sentence based on the political will of the time.

If the state wants to incarcerate people for life without parole, then they should have to sentence them to that, rather than giving them less and then just keeping them incarcerated.

Re:Well, it's not that unusual. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32246736)

If indefinite detention is going to be applied -- there is no doubt of the person's guilt and it would be unsafe to the public to release them -- I really have to wonder why they aren't put down. Prisons are overcrowded and the public gets taxed to maintain a known-defective. Keeping it incarcerated will likely negatively impact other inmates, so there's overall loss there. If it were a mad dog, nobody would think twice about putting it down, but because it happens to be a hairless ape, people get all soppy.

Unfortunately, it's been made clear enough over the years that there are plenty of dirtbags on the wrong side of the prison bars who would take every opportunity to make the option fit circumstances they decide on that euthanization would doubtless end up just as abused as TASERs.

Still, in theory it makes sense: if they're going to be kept behind bars until they die anyway, why drag it out? The animal gains nothing and the public has to pay to keep it alive and contained.

Scalia and Thomas Dissented! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32246500)

Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justice Antonin Scalia, dissented in the case, United States v. Comstock.

Oh wow, the Irony meeter is broken on this one!

Re:Scalia and Thomas Dissented! (0, Flamebait)

XanC (644172) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246670)

Irony? The two who are most often right are right about this one as well. That's not even surprising.

Re:Scalia and Thomas Dissented! (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246764)

Thomas voting in favor of a habeas appeal is somewhat unusual, since he tends to come down on the side of the government and law-and-order more often (though not as consistently as Rehnquist did). Scalia I agree isn't surprising.

Obligatory (1)

ZeBam.com (1790466) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246628)

When they came for the perverts, I said nothing because I wasn't a pervert.
When they came for the [etc etc]

Limits of Government (1)

phamNewan (689644) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246688)

There is no surprise that Thomas and Scalia dissented as they are always limiting the scope of the Federal government. It is the 7-2 that is surprising. So rare to have that much agreement on anything.

I would have to say this is unconstitutional, but it plugs a hole in the legal system that is incapable of dealing with properly dealing with inherently dangerous people. Anyone who is willing to destroy someone else for their own pleasure is someone that has no "right" to mix with the public. The fact that the government has not been able to get sentencing to properly account for this is the real problem and this ruling is a stop-gap measure.

In many ways the old west justice of a lynch mob was far more effective at dealing with many types of crime. Once the lynch mob was done there was no risk of repeat offenders. The downside to lynch mobs is the false/positive verdict that cannot be retracted. A solution is needed, but this law and ruling only highlight how poorly the system is at keeping people safe. It clearly does open the USA to the risk of permanent detainment of people that are at "odds" with the government. I am sure that Obama would not mind "detaining" some BP executives for a while as risks to the greater good.

Incorrect summary (2, Informative)

SoftwareArtist (1472499) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246722)

The summary is incorrect. The majority opinion was written by Breyer, not Kennedy. Kennedy is one of the two (not three like it says) who concurred but thought the majority opinion was too broad. See http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/18/us/politics/18offenders.html [nytimes.com]

call terrorists deviants - solves problem (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246748)

They werent going to release the most dangerous terrorists anyways. But they were catching a lot of flack for keeping them locked up without trials.
More difficult is the recent flurry of citizens or legal aliens engaging in terror plots. Are they treated the same as foreign agents?

Habeas Corpus ? (1)

ivan_w (1115485) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246782)

Whatever happened to Habeas Corpus ?

I thought this was a basic principle in the U.S. legal system.. Whereas, a person could not be held in custody without a court order - and I can't think how a court order can go beyond the age of a sentence of imprisonment.

Does this also mean that peeing in the improper place can now be turned into a lifelong sentence without parole ?

So, are they finally going to drop the pretense? (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246796)

One more in a long line of supreme court failures to uphold the constitution. When a prisoner's sentence is up, holding him in prison is false imprisonment and kidnapping.

-jcr

Misleading Summary (2, Informative)

Blackeagle_Falcon (784253) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.
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