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. Kara

    Umm, on what grounds did the court decide this?

    As has been pointed out, this is a VERY slippery slope. I have no sympathy for predators, but once someone has paid their predetermined 'debt to society' that is it, the state can no longer hold them. There are still things after: registries, parole officers, and so on, but they do not have to deal with further incarceration unless they break a law again.

    Using this as a precedent a future court could extend it to ANY other crimes. For example, what if they decided anyone who was guilty for, oh, shoplifting in a grocery store should be locked up forever. Then made that decision WHILE the person was in their jail cell.

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

      The prison camps in most country, that Americans often condemn, started this way. You 'could' be future threat, so we'll just hold on to you. You give this much power to any government body, and it is going to be misused.

      May 17, 2010 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
  2. Jerry

    I hate Republicans and think they are a danger to my children because they poison their little minds. If I can get enough Americans to agree with me should we be able to keep them in prison for life?

    May 17, 2010 at 11:07 am | Report abuse |
  3. Robbie Cassidy

    Though I am against unlawful detention I am more against child molesters and perverts who prey on children and women. I just hope that this ruling doesn't set a precedent to where the government can hold just anyone after their sentence expires; because a large percentage of people who are in prison have either been there before or will be there again, so they are considered dangers to communities. I guess time will tell.

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

    I can see it now: Breaking news...AZ has just enacted a law allowing the state to keep illegal immigrants locked up for life because "if we let them go and put them back in Messico, they'll just come back!"

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

    How about murders, or rapists, or drug dealers who destroy lives, or executives that pillage peoples retirement accounts, or doctors who practice bad medicine and kill people. Why should they be allowed to go back out into society?

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

    I love when people feel the need to comment with strong emotion without taking the time to read the entire decision. Heaven forbid you let the facts get in the way of our opinion. Why open your mind when you can use one short segment of the decision to prove to all that you are right? You are free to agree or disagree with the decision, but do it only after you've done your homework.

    God Bless America. Our stupidity and laziness will lead to our downfall.

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

    However I agree with most as this is a well made decision. Due to what they do to others. this is an injustice at the same time. We like this law but wait till you see the drug offenders or alcoholics and speeders for that matter start falling into this judgment. I think it is better to rethink sentencing rather than stating we'll see when your time is completed if we'll release you or not. We all speak of we hate communism, but at the same time we are moving towards that too. Where are our rights and where is justice true justice not what one thinks? I think we were better off if McCain won rather than Obama! One step forward that most of us likes on a ruling but wait till you are targeted to be called dangerous to society based upon your appearance!

    May 17, 2010 at 11:08 am | Report abuse |
  8. John

    I just finished taking a comparative politics class. For those of you that want a better understanding of communisum/socialism you should take this class. In doing so you will understand that this change is one step closer toward that end. As a parent, I would like nothing more than to see these people put away for life but it has to be done with a written law that has passed through our "weak" political system. If you want to know what I mean by "weak" political system, look it up. Hint, strong states are the ones that are communist.

    May 17, 2010 at 11:08 am | Report abuse |
    • bofwisconsin

      The Democratic Party is neither communist nor socialist. Our more immediate threat is the far right. In the future the far left could be a danger, but we don't have to worry about that from the current administration. The hordes of people commenting about how they despise due process, how these people should be shot, some of them saying people that oppose this ruling should be locked up in the same room as the criminals, are worrisome. These people have forsaken a love for our country's precious system of due process and human dignity.

      I'm not saying the left would never be a problem, but as it stands the far right is a far greater danger since the far right has the least respect for due process and the most anger focused on groups of people they'd love to attack with this new power. Republicans with common sense need to speak up more so the fringe doesn't take over, but it doesn't matter whether someone is on the right or left side of things this should be concerning to everyone.

      May 17, 2010 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
  9. Omegaworks

    Pedophiles are not wired right. They cannot be fixed. There is something very wrong with them. They should be put to sleep quietly, but if we can't do that, then yes, they should be kept in prison and only carried out in boxes and even that's being kind. I don't like to give them credit, because they probably get off on this too, but the damage that these people do is life long. They really should be made to suffer. Castrated, tongues cut, fingers chopped, and then thrown in jail or buried alive, whatever is necessary to keep them from hurting someone else and to make them suffer as much as they make someone else suffer.

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

      Put to sleep quietly? So you believe in the death of due process and a fascist system to make people disappear?

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

    The Pope is reportedly extremely angry about this ruling....


    May 17, 2010 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
  11. Joe

    I agree with the 2 standouts. Where will this end? Well...let's give them a parking ticket because that's the law. Oh yeah...and when we're done, we'll smash their car too so they can never drive again. Same logic, different crime. If a penalty is set for a crime and time is served, time is served. This is being convicted a second time without the trial. Who's the judge of what's grounds to keep someone? That's pretty akin to "Show us your papers" mentality.

    Too bad the penalty wasn't stricter ahead of time, but it just wasn't, and that's that. Next, your thoughts will be too dangerous and the thought cops will come and take you away.

    May 17, 2010 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
  12. suzanne williams

    This is definately a good start!!!! I do have a question though, one in Virginia has bought a house directly across the street from an elementary school playground ......that is just WRONG!!!!

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

    terribly dangerous precedent. its the jury of our peers, not "the officials." change the sentences if you wish but DO NOT keep a person past their sentence. the supreme court made a mistake.

    May 17, 2010 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
  14. John Q.

    Hmmm... Although I think that these guys should get "life" from the get-go, if not the death penalty in some cases, I'm not so sure this is right actually. Where do we draw the lines on other crimes; it is a precedent of things to come? I have to give this more thought on the possibilities of abuse. Interesting.

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

    Wow, This is about as anti-USAmerican as anything I have ever heard of. The "right" to a Jury Trial and the "Right" to Due Process knocked out in one ruling. Who prosecutes the prosecutors that commit perjury when they swear in court that innocent people committed crimes. 234 DA Exonerations so far and counting. How many more innocent people are sitting in prison as you are writing this un-American tripe. We already incarcerate at the highest rate on earth and we call this a free country. Give me a break and an exit visa.

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

      They let corporations come in and use the prisoners for jobs. They don't have to pay much. It's in the government's interest then, to lock people up and let God sort it out. This is a catastrophic ruling for the American People. We should be up in arms about it!

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