Think U.S. indefinite detention just happens in Guantanamo? Think again.
by Peter Wagner, October 2, 2013
Our friend and colleague James Ridgeway has released a must-read expose on disturbing laws that allow state and federal governments to keep certain people convicted of sex offenses behind bars indefinitely:
Through a legal procedure called “civil commitment”, you can be classed as a sexually violent predator based solely on the subjective opinion of a state-employed psychologist or sex expert.
Once placed under a civil commitment, you are essentially in prison indefinitely. This can quickly become a nightmare, particularly in instances such as an “agreed disposition” – similar to a plea bargain in a criminal trial – where a person may have been pushed to waive his right to appeal during negotiations.
The article concludes:
While there are, undoubtedly, some irremediable sex offenders who need to be confined for reasons of public safety, the civil commitment protocol denies some of the basic rights afforded other criminal defendants. These include the right to a speedy trial, full right to counsel and, perhaps most importantly, the right to introduce testimony from a defendant’s own experts. Without the protection of this last right, some defendants are sent off to prison for an indefinite sentence on the basis of questionable opinions from the state’s expert witnesses.
Civil commitment for sex offenders needs to be reformed root-and-branch or abandoned. The policy may be popular in law enforcement circles, fewer than half of US states have such laws. But in those states that have it [...] most do not escape this largely invisible American gulag.