The US Supreme Court has ruled that a law which allows “sexually dangerous” prisoners to be jailed forever without trial does not violate the Constitution.
The case centres on Graydon Comstock, who was convicted of possessing child pornography and sentenced to three years imprisonment. Immediately prior to this sentence he served a separate sentence for engaging in lewd acts with a minor.
Six days prior to the end of his sentence, the government branded him a “sexually dangerous” paedophile who might reoffend, and denied him release, placing him into indefinite “civil commitment” in a federal prison.
He has since spent nearly three years in prison despite having been convicted of no further crime, and having served his sentence.
Release of such “committed” prisoners is possible only if they are deemed to be no longer dangerous – without a treatment program recognised as being capable of this, their imprisonment effectively becomes indefinite.
The law responsible for extending this practice to the federal level, the 2006 Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, was soon challenged by prisoners now being denied release indefinitely, eventually reaching the Supreme Court.
Supreme Court justices finally ruled 7 to 2 in favour of the law:
“It is necessary and proper for Congress to provide for the civil commitment of dangerous federal prisoners.”
Democrats are delighted by the victory – Obama even recently promoted the lady who argued for indefinite sentences on behalf of the federal government, Elena Kagan, to the Supreme Court herself.
She is on record as having argued that the government should be able to restrict any speech it considers “harmful,” irrespective of the First Amendment
A Democratic senator holds forth in support of the decision:
“The process to enact this law to protect our children from those who would do them harm was difficult. I am heartened to see an overwhelming majority of the Supreme Court uphold this important child protection law.”
Some states already operate similar laws, but this decision ensures the federal government can now freely override sentences throughout the land.
The solicitor general for Kansas, Stephen McAllister, a supporter of the law, suggests that allowing indefinite civil commitment for all kinds of criminals might now be possible:
“Constitutionally, it might be possible. I don’t have a constitutionally limiting line for what kinds of mental disorders might be permissible and what [might] not. If they lead to danger to others, potentially, they could be covered under such a law.”