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. M

    Penal colony, anyone? Exile them to an island and let them prey on each other.

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

    Gee why stop there> Why not keep all the druggies, and murders, and fraud cases there too? This law smells of prejudice it stinks. Also what then will stop the offender from killing it's victum, trrying to hide the evidence? They have nothing to lose would they?

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

    This is pretty scary. The point of an initial trial is to set a sentence based on the crime. If this sentence can be extended without another crime committed it defeats the purpose of that initial sentence. What will the extend sentences on next?

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

      I agree. This is a very scary precedent they're setting. I'm surprised so many of the commenters are in support of this decision. If Americans are willing to hand over their liberties so easily, there won't be much of a free America left.

      May 17, 2010 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
  4. UScitizen

    I'm so glad. It's about time we actually did something to protect innocent children and victims in this country.

    May 17, 2010 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
    • Concerned

      We can protect them by having longer predetermined sentencing, not by giving our courts the power to keep anyone they deem dangerous in jail indefinitely. This is ridiculous

      May 17, 2010 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
  5. then what?

    What is the point of this? This does nothing but confirm that the American Government is involved in turning your country into a Police State that will have unlimited powers (pretty close already though) to determine what you do, say, think, eat, sleep...Pay your taxes and shut up. Don't look this way, Don't do that, you may be put in jail. Don't like our laws? Jail for life.
    Yeah, those are sick people, but then what? Lock up car thieves for life so that insurance companies don't have to pay for lost cars? Hm...thats a good idea..let's get a vote on that.
    The problem with online comments is that a mob mentality takes over and everyone says Hell yeah, put those mo fo's in jail – what if you are a parent and one of those people convicted is in jail..does 20 years and you want to see them again? What is they are falsely accused?

    I say..move out of the USA before it's too late and you're not allowed to leave.

    May 17, 2010 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
    • JB

      Right on! People are falsely accused every day.

      May 17, 2010 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
    • bilbo

      and if the neo-con fascists have their way..that day will be soon...

      May 17, 2010 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
    • br

      It is definitely getting scary here.

      May 17, 2010 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
  6. scared

    They can incarcerate you for the rest of your life without any court interference.
    One good trumped up charge is good for the whole thing.
    The next step is just skip the whole trial instead of just skipping the sentencing phase.
    That's pretty scary.

    May 17, 2010 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
  7. Corrections Guy

    by the way, why no comments on the vote count. 7 to 2 majority. That means some very liberal members of the court agreed with the conservative hardliners!!!

    May 17, 2010 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
  8. The Shrike

    We should keep politicians who destroy our country locked up forever as well. In fact we should have a referendum on that after every election.

    May 17, 2010 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
  9. Protect Mass Children

    We are pushing for strong mandatory sentences in Massachusetts. 35 year mandatory sentences for 1st offenders. Life imporisonment for 2nd offenders. We know this will never happen usinig our legislative branches so we are trying to build enough support to file a ballot initiative. If anyone reading this is from Massachusetts please go to and sign on as a supporter.

    May 17, 2010 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
    • Guy Montag

      I'm from MA, but this seems somewhat extreme to me.

      What is your political affiliation?

      May 17, 2010 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Animenut

      By setting unreasonably harsh sentences, you will defeat your purpose. The initial charges will be reduced.

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

    Their sentences should be set indefinite by court/jury not a politician. this can be so easily abused...who is the federal government and what is their motivation for leaving someone locked up? Who is making the decision. All they have to do is label you as dangerous....too much power to the fed... somehow I suspect the details of this case/verdict are being twisted in the media (don't see the details of it listed).

    May 17, 2010 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
  11. NamVet

    Makes sense to me. Maybe the critics need to read the decision; the SCOTUS usually lays out the logic of it's decisions in 20 – 50 pages of details.

    May 17, 2010 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
  12. Sniffit

    So overall recidivism rates now justify keeping an INDIVIDUAL for an indefinite stay at the Hotel Incarcerata? Lovely. We already waste insane amounts of taxpayer money keeping drug addicts locked up for obscenely long sentences just so politicians can claim they are "tough on crime." But hey...they have super high recidivism rates, so I'm betting they're next on the fascist hit list.

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

    Yeah, I'm not sure I understand this. If you want them locked up forever, give them a life sentence in the first place. Arbitrarily deciding whether they should be released or not after their sentence is over seems rather unfair to me. "Mr. Smith, you've been found guilty, you will now be, well, we'll just let you out when we feel like it." Something inherently wrong about that, even though the people in question may well deserve that kind of treatment.

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

    SCARY AND UNBELIEVABLE!!! If a sentence is served, they should have the right to be free. What this really means: "Regardless of crime, the government can keep you in prison indefinitely by saying they deem you dangerous".

    May 17, 2010 at 11:07 am | Report abuse |
  15. TM

    ummmm . . . not sure about this. while I think they all should burn in hell. I wonder what the affects of this law could cause.

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