Can Sex Offenders be Imprisoned Indefinitely?

The Supreme Court is set to hear a case that could keep sex offenders in prison for longer periods of time — even after they’ve finished their sentence.

The issue of federal “civil commitment” allows the government to avoid releasing convicted sex offenders considered to be dangerous, with a high risk of offending again, according to CNN.

The main plaintiff in the case, Graydon Comstock, was deemed too dangerous to release by the state of North Carolina only six days before his child pornography sentence was to end in 2006.

An appeals court ruled that confinement without any new charges violated the Sixth Amendment right to due process of Comstock and up to 77 other men. However, the state has continued to keep these prisoners in civil confinement pending further appeals.

The case will be heard by the Court in October.

In addition to violating constitutional rights, Comstock’s defense attorney has argued that in passing the 2006 Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, Congress overstepped its bounds by interfering in states’ rights.

Most violent sex crimes are prosecuted at a state level, and by initiating the civil commitment program, the federal government may be dictating how states should process criminals.

If the Supreme Court sides with Comstock the other North Carolina prisoners, some offenders who have completed their sentences could be released immediately following the ruling.

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