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. Dell Roberts

    I forgot to say that I have 3 nieces and have
    never touched any of them or thier babysitter
    HONEST !

    May 17, 2010 at 11:01 am | Report abuse |
  2. Ken

    This is a horrible decision. If the government wants you locked up forever there needs to be a life sentence. Who's next to have their sentence changed after being sentenced? This decision is judicial activism to the highest decree. The Supreme Court should not have the power to effectively give whoever the government asks a life sentence, after they have already been sentenced and done their time. Which crime is next to be deemed too dangerous to society to release? I agree to change sentences for pedophiles to make them lifelong, but to change sentences after the fact is a power the government should not be allowed to have. Don't let the pedophile issue fool you. We have now become a nation without the rule of law. We have become a police state.

    May 17, 2010 at 11:01 am | Report abuse |
  3. Sniffit

    Fascism in t-minus 10, 9, 8....

    May 17, 2010 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
  4. chris

    Although I do not condone pedophilia this is an infringement on these peoples rights. "Officials" are human and humans are fallible... One "Officials" opinion is going to differ from another, now our broken legal system will affect our broken economy... I'm headed to Europe, they seem to have a better track record when it comes to running a country while not bankrupting its people.

    May 17, 2010 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
    • NukEvil

      Just make sure to not stop in the UK...they've long surpassed any of America's stupidity in the form of cameras watching your every move, police officers harassing photographers, and government officials having one set of rules for them, and another set for everyone else.

      I'm not worried, though. The U.S. will catch up with the U.K. soon enough. Forget 1984. We've skipped right to Judge Dredd.

      May 17, 2010 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
  5. michelle

    In most states age of consent is 16. So this would not be a case that the 18 year old would be held unless is was violent.The article did state some cases.Countries that do impose harsher punishment have a lower crime rate and return rate.

    May 17, 2010 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
  6. 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 11:02 am | Report abuse |
  7. The Shrike

    Animal Farm all over again.

    May 17, 2010 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
  8. Cobalt

    From this point on ANYONE the state deems "dangerous" can be held in prison FOREVER. Since the people serve their sentence this ruling allows arbitrary imprisonment for no reason other than someone deeming them dangerous. If you commit a minor offense and serve a few days in jail the state can now deem you "dangerous" and imprison you FOREVER.

    May 17, 2010 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
  9. Brad

    "So this is how liberty dies... with thunderous applause"

    May 17, 2010 at 11:03 am | Report abuse |
    • Ryan

      took the words right out of my mouth.

      May 17, 2010 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
    • br

      It's sad, horrifying, and unbelievable at the same time. People are so stupid, they don't even know what this really means. My head is bowed this morning.

      May 17, 2010 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
  10. Animenut

    Wow, usually CNN comments are of a higher class. I thought for a second I was reading comments on USA Today.

    I think life in prison should satisfy the most conservative types.

    May 17, 2010 at 11:03 am | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      Life in prison would be 100% acceptable, if it were the actual sentence.

      However, giving the current Bolshevik government the ability to keep people locked up indefinitely because they deem you an "enemy of the people" is not acceptable.

      May 17, 2010 at 11:06 am | Report abuse |
  11. Barb

    This is a sound judgement! This ruling may have saved lives in the future that otherwise would have been lost without it!

    May 17, 2010 at 11:03 am | Report abuse |
  12. Old Salt

    ... and what about murderers? Let the prison guards decide if they're still dangerous & if so, keep them locked up forever too. Also, what about bank robbers who committed violent crimes? Personally, I think we should round up people who aren't Christians or who look like tramps, and lock them up too. Why bother with a trial or a sentence? Those are for wimps & do-gooders ... also they cost too much and make the streets unsafe.

    May 17, 2010 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
  13. Jami

    Good. These people need to be off the streets. And for all of you saying that it's taking our freedoms and liberties away... it isn't taking anything away from anyone who doesn't break the law. I don't agree with half of the things our government has done/is doing, but I completely agree with this. If you EVER do anything with a CHILD, you don't deserve ANY rights, liberties, or freedoms. I don't care if you want to call it a disease or not... it's breaking the law.

    May 17, 2010 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Concerned

      No one NEVER breaks the law. Life in jail, or worse indefinitely because you jaywalked? because a powerhungry judge thinks in his own human opinion that your dangerous to society? To me that sounds like a horrible place to life.

      May 17, 2010 at 11:07 am | Report abuse |
    • FC

      Jami, please spend a second thinking your statement, and I quote, "And for all of you saying that it's taking our freedoms and liberties away... it isn't taking anything away from anyone who doesn't break the law.", over.

      You basically state that if someone breaks "the law", he loses his freedoms and liberties. Jami, that is A BAD THING. I've always admired the United States of America for holding up freedom and liberty. And now this comes around the corner.

      Jami, what is "the law"? Which law? Currently, this concerns pedophiles. Heh, okay, I don't want them running around, either. But – as several people here pointed out – this is the wrong way to go. If you want pedophiles done away for good, sentence them life and be done with it. Do NOT give government the power to put people away forever without them showing up in court.

      What is "the law" that should not be broken? Loitering? Speeding? Spitting your gum on the sidwalk? Silly examples? Yeah right. Just you wait, Henry Higgins.

      Checks and balances exist for a REASON. Folks, please spend a moment thinking about it: do you really want the government to be able to lock people up forever without anyone being able to say, hold a second, this does not look right? If you say yes ... I'd advise a visit in Germany, 1933 to 1945. They had the power there to lock you or let you vanish. Do you, american citizens, lovers of freedom and liberty, want the government to take away your basic rights under the pretext of just doing this to swine who don't deserve no better? And yes, it's YOUR rights.

      Anyone at fault with my last statement? Fine, I dare you to try and prove yourself innocent if someone charges you with being a pedophile. Have fun – you'll have lots of time on your hands thinking it over. Life-long, looks like.

      May 18, 2010 at 6:26 am | Report abuse |
  14. independent

    You cannot keep a person in jail past their sentence term. The Court is wrong.

    It is up to the sentencing court to give the criminal a life term, if the criminal poses a lifelong threat. I don't want the federal government arbitrarily extending sentences of those they consider a threat to society. We have already seen how politics can intrude on Justice Dept decisions.

    May 17, 2010 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
  15. matt

    This is a poor decision. It sets us up for a terrible abuse of authority.

    May 17, 2010 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
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