May 17th, 2010
10:20 AM ET

Supreme Court: Sex offenders can be held indefinitely

The Supreme Court ruled Monday the federal government has the power to indefinitely keep some sex offenders behind bars after they have served their sentences, if officials determine those inmates may prove "sexually dangerous" in the future.

"The federal government, as custodian of its prisoners, has the constitutional power to act in order to protect nearby (and other) communities from the danger such prisoners may pose," Justice Stephen Breyer wrote for the 7-2 majority.

Monday's other Supreme Court rulings:

Court: Sentencing juveniles to life without parole 'cruel and unusual'

High court rules for father in international child custody case

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Filed under: Justice • Supreme Court
soundoff (485 Responses)
  1. Bristoll

    This is a VERY slippery slope we're on, you and I...

    This is a bad decision, not because it fails to protect victims, but because it quintessentially eviscerates the very reason we even bother talking about how long someone's punishment will be.

    So now, effectively, the Executive Branch can lock people up and throw away the key without any further oversight???

    Bye-bye, America... It's been good, but that we only had 2 dissenting justices in favor of upholding a key tenet of our "just-us" system means that it's all downhill from here.

    Good thing there are still some countries in the world where the rule of law is respected.

    May 17, 2010 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
  2. Virgalante

    Could we next lock up fat ugly stupid people for life.. please, they are hideous and offensive and deserve to be gutted.

    May 17, 2010 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
  3. S. Singh Esq

    Today, as an Attorney who practices in this field, I have no respect for the Supreme Court. They have taken away what little respect I had for the high court because of this horrendous decision. I do think that there must be a mechanism to deal with these offenders but keeping them locked up is inhumane. They, after all are humans just like the rest of us.

    May 17, 2010 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
  4. Phil Muse

    I disagree strongly with the Supreme Court's ruling. It goes completely against the tradition in our criminal law that an offender be given his freedom after he has paid his debt to society. That's what a penal system is all about. This ruling sets an unfortunate precident that may be extended arbitrarily to other classes of offenders. I'd be interested to know what minority opinion, if any, follows in the wake of the 7-2 ruling.

    May 17, 2010 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
  5. Brian from Chicago

    I wonder if my last post was censored because I proposed chemical castration as an alternative to the extended detention.

    May 17, 2010 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
  6. Captain D

    Great decision! Now they should add that the government has the right to execute them after their sentences have been served.

    May 17, 2010 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
  7. Brian from Chicago

    Nope. Must have been something else.

    May 17, 2010 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
  8. Dana Depew

    Anyone that has served their sentence for their crime should be set free. If they are to be in prison longer, increase the sentence times.

    I do not support the idea of holding ANYONE in prison indefinately based solely on the idea that they MIGHT commit a crime in the future. If the sentence wasn't long enough, the proper solution is to increase the sentence lengths, not decide to keep people in prison forever.

    May 17, 2010 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
  9. Jack

    You all are nutty. Honestly, you support giving the government power to hold people beyond what we, the citizens of the United States, say their sentence should be? The government is giving power to the government, and we're agreeing with this? We should increase liberties in this country, instead we're stripping our citizens of it. We must abolish this corrupt federal court system, or we'll be consumed by it.

    May 17, 2010 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
    • bilbo

      ..but the great masses demand cruel justice..they are so unenlightened that execution, castration or some other barbaric punishment is what it takes to satisfy their blood-lust...these people are truly sad, and have not clue number one of the freedoms that they endorse givin up...

      May 17, 2010 at 11:12 am | Report abuse |
  10. Jon

    I have a 4-year old daughter so I do not want these people out, ever!! BUT I have a bad feeling that this may be the beginning fo the end of our 5th ammendment right to Due Process. Sounds like guantanamo for american citizens.

    May 17, 2010 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
  11. Justice

    sad....very very sad. Its a disease and no one deserves this.

    May 17, 2010 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Lass

      IT IS NOT A DISEASE, IT IS A CHOICE !

      May 17, 2010 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
  12. Ike

    Very scary. Give them life sentences for the crimes they commit, period. Don't start applying haphazard rules to criminals; it obliterates the law. I am not surprised it is conservative justices who voted against this. It's a dangerous precedent to set. If we'd put them away and give them the sentences they deserve, this madness would not have been considered.

    May 17, 2010 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
  13. Mark

    Why even have sentences then? The government should just way "we'll keep you locked up until we feel that you're no longer a threat".

    Wow, not even the Soviet Union or China ever had the gumption to attempt something like this.

    May 17, 2010 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      *Should just SAY...

      May 17, 2010 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
  14. Outraged!

    This decision by the supreme court is almost as ridiculous as some of the comments made by other viewers! If an offender needs to be kept longer in prison it means the justice system failed during the original sentencing. What has our country come to when fear instead of fairness becomes the foundation "quilt".

    May 17, 2010 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
    • danno

      Totally agree !!

      May 17, 2010 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
  15. KathyinFlorida

    So Sorry... Adam Walsh.Polly Klaas,Jessica Lunsford,Amber Dubois and so many others that met their untimely demise due too these "unfit for Life" creatures that have rights. It's about DAMN TIME....better yet eradicate like we do bugs monthly.

    May 17, 2010 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      Hey KathyinFlorda, you're an i diot. If penalties aren't harsh enough, then laws should be passed to make them harsher. The government SHOULD NOT have the ability to lock people up for arbitrary amounts of time.

      Next you know, they'll be coming for your brother because he said something that Emperor Barack didn't like, and you won't be seeing him again.

      May 17, 2010 at 10:55 am | Report abuse |
    • KathyinFlorida

      Mark what are you so paranoid about....do you fit into the profile? Idiot LOL calm ..down hope you don't have any kids

      May 17, 2010 at 10:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Karen

      Maybe you should try reading a history book Kathy. It isn't paranoid to know that when trying to impose more power over those you govern, you go after the 'evil' people first. People don't complain because they agree that the evil should be punished, until these ruling start effecting the less and less evil. What about when those convicted of driving drunk are then held indefinitely? One can argue that their chance of offending again is rather high, and they could cause a death. The road to hell is paved in 'good intentions'....

      Make the courts do their jobs in the first place, that is way we have them.

      May 17, 2010 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
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