18 May 2010

Another Move Towards Complete Lawlessness

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This is really ominous:

The Supreme Court ruled today that convicted sex offenders can be imprisoned even after their sentences expire if they are determined to be mentally ill and sexually dangerous.

In a decision by Justice Stephen Breyer, the Court upheld a federal law that allows dangerous sex offenders to remain in prison if the federal government proves by clear and convincing evidence they would have “serious difficulty in refraining from sexually violent conduct or child molestation” if released.

I am not going to comment on the constitutionality of the measure, since I have no idea. What I will say is that this is an incredibly dangerous path to go down.

The essence of this ruling says that the government can lock you up not for what you have done, but for what you might do.

Of course, a lot of people would say, “Huh??! What are you defending sex offenders for! These people have been convicted of crimes!”

Right, and so if we want them to be locked up and kept away from kids, then we should bump up the sentences for whatever they did. It’s not as if this is politically difficult. Can you imagine a congressman saying, “Darn it, I voted to bump up the sentencing guidelines on molestation because I thought it was the right thing to do. Now I’m going to get killed in my re-election campaign for being too tough on pedophiles.” ?

This is a classic example of the government gaining an Orwellian new power, and using a group of pariahs as the wedge.

8 Responses to “Another Move Towards Complete Lawlessness”

  1. Brian Shelley says:

    I see both sides on this. Justice should be about punishment for behavior, and not for the ill-defined public safety. However, the science I have heard is that pedophilia is a pandora’s box that cannot be closed (someone correct me if that isn’t true).

    If a coke addict relapses and snorts some coke, does anyone really suffer besides that person? But, if the pedophile relapses, someone suffers. If it’s an incurable condition, and they are a threat to society, the person borders on the insane.

    • Skyler Collins says:

      @Brian Shelley, is justice about punishment or retribution? Should it first consider the offender or the victim?

      • Brian Shelley says:

        Two sides of the same coin I think. Justice, is a blind and objective (as possible) arbitor who must satiate society’s desires for punishment/retribution. Without an agreed upon “justice” there will be violence and “vigilanteism”. Give me a link to enlighten me if you are aware of better developed ideas.

  2. Teqzilla says:

    The quoted article is misleading when it refers solely to convicted sexual offenders. You don’t have to have ever been convicted of a sexual offence to qualify for this arbitrary detention. Anybody serving a federal criminal sentence can be detained beyond their sentence because they are allegedly “sexually dangerous”.

  3. P.S.H. says:

    Dr. Murphy,

    You say that the “essence of this ruling says that the government can lock you up not for what you have done, but for what you might do.” That is flatly wrong; the constitutionality of civil commitment as such was not even an issue in this decision.

    The Court’s decision deals solely with the enumerated-powers issue—namely, does 18 U.S.C. §4248 fall within the powers granted to Congress by the U.S. Constitution? The majority held that the statute was not ultra vires; it did not address any other constitutional objections to the statute.

    Incidentally, civil commitment is not new.

    • bobmurphy says:

      PSH, okay I may have been wrong by saying “the essence of this ruling.” If you prefer, I can phrase it like this: “The Supreme Court had a chance to throw out something that allows the federal government to lock people up for something they might do in the future. That is very ominous.”

      I acknowledged in the original post that it may have been the constitutionally correct ruling. I am referring to this power that the government has just had rubber-stamped.

      I recognize this is not completely novel, but by the same token the Patriot Act etc. were not the first time the government has done such things. Even so, every time the government enlarges its arbitrary power, we should point it out and complain.

  4. Silas Barta says:

    Bob, would you be embarassed if I looked up some of your older (and recently re-released) writings in which you suggest that in a free society, certain people, on grounds of being dangerous, and solely in expectation of future behavior, would also be locked up?

    How would you reconcile these two positions beyond, “Government does things worse than the private sector”?

  5. Political Catechism says:

    It’s only a matter of time before the state uses involuntary admission to bypass due process.