The Supreme Court hears arguments today in a case that tests the federal government’s power to keep convicted sex offenders behind bars after they have served out their prison terms, reports National Public Radio. Eighty-four such prisoners are indefinitely confined for treatment at a federal prison in North Carolina. Five of them are challenging the law under which they have been detained with no end in sight.
Congress authorized indefinite civil commitments for the first time in 2006 for sexual offenders who have completed their prison terms. Two federal courts invalidated the law as unconstitutional. Attorney Jeff Green maintains that the government’s so-called treatment program is nothing more than a Catch-22. The offender is required to talk about his sexual fantasies and accept responsibility, but those conversations can be used against him if he seeks release. Because there is no way for the offender to prove he is not dangerous, Green argues, release for most of these men “is a practical impossibility.” One lawyer who has visited the federal facility in North Carolina calls it “a pervert’s cruise ship to nowhere.”