Peter Wagner, Executive Director
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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.

One Response

  1. Callie Lockwood says, 1 month, 1 week after publication:

    While those guilty of sexual offenses need to be incarcerated, they also need to be afforded their rights as human beings and citizens of this country. If they are truly guilty, the legal process needs to prove that. Different evidence requirements are select offenses is unlawful and should be stopped.

Meet us

  • February 20, 2015:
    Executive Director Peter Wagner, Board Member Amanda Alexander and Advisory Board Member Bruce Reilly will present on a panel entitled “The fight against mass incarceration: Combining litigation and policy work for systemic change” at RebLaw at Yale Law School from 3-4:30pm.

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  • February 20, 2015:
    Executive Director Peter Wagner, Board Member Amanda Alexander and Advisory Board Member Bruce Reilly will present on a panel entitled “The fight against mass incarceration: Combining litigation and policy work for systemic change” at RebLaw at Yale Law School from 3-4:30pm.

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