You are here

Civil Committment for Sex Offenders

Published on May 26, 2010 in The Tennessean
The U.S. Supreme Court recently upheld a por­tion of the Adam Walsh Child Pro­tec­tion and Safety Act that allows fed­eral courts to order civil com­mit­ments of men­tally ill “sex­u­ally dan­ger­ous” fed­eral pris­on­ers if they have reached the end of their crim­i­nal sen­tences or if they are incom­pe­tent to stand trial.
Civil com­mit­ments for men­tally ill sex offend­ers are a com­mon sense and humane approach to crime pre­ven­tion and com­mu­nity safety. When con­sid­er­ing the impact of sex­ual vio­lence upon vic­tims, it is clear that this class of inmates requires a height­ened leg­isla­tive and judi­cial response to pre­vent future crimes and pro­tect communities.
Twenty-two states also have sim­i­lar civil com­mit­ment laws for this class of inmates, and the Supreme Court has pre­vi­ously upheld the con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of those laws as well, not­ing that pre­vi­ous instances of vio­lent behav­ior are an impor­tant indi­ca­tor of future vio­lent ten­den­cies. The laws that pro­vide for civil com­mit­ments also pro­tect the rights of these pris­on­ers by pro­vid­ing for the appoint­ment of attor­neys and peri­odic judi­cial review to deter­mine whether the pris­oner remains dangerous.
Civil com­mit­ment statutes place the focus where it belongs, on the preda­tory, vio­lent con­duct of sex offend­ers and on the deviant moti­va­tions and/or men­tal ill­nesses that con­tribute to their crim­i­nal behav­ior. If the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem rou­tinely took this same offender-focused approach when sex­ual assault cases first come into the sys­tem, more cases would be inves­ti­gated and pros­e­cuted, lead­ing to more jus­tice for vic­tims. This, too, would pre­vent crime and pro­tect com­mu­ni­ties from sex offenders.
For more please visit: