Sex offenders are a different type of criminal, increasingly punished under a different set of rules, says Stateline.org. After release from prison, they are followed by satellite, showcased on the Internet, and prohibited from living in certain neighborhoods. In eight states, they face castration. Civil confinement that is causing the most controversy. When the most dangerous sexual predators are due to leave prison in 16 states, officials can revoke their freedom and toss them into civil confinement, often mental hospitals, indefinitely. The U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed the practice, and at least eight states this year are considering similar legislation. New York Gov. George Pataki has made it a key goal for his final year in office.
Civil confinement has earned high praise from parents, lawmakers, and child advocates. Critics warn the increasingly punitive attitude could erode civil liberties, even as some researchers question whether civil detention is fair or effective. Last year’s case of Florida’s Jessica Lunsford, 9, who was killed by a registered sex offender who lived nearby, helped spark more than 100 new state laws against sex offenders in 2005 — twice as many as 2004 and far beyond any previous year. This year at least eight states have proposed civil confinement to stop sexual predators. Among them: Kentucky, Maryland, Nebraska, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and West Virginia.