Six years ago, the federal government set out to detain indefinitely some of the nation’s most dangerous sex offenders, keeping them locked up even after their prison sentences had ended. The government has won court approval for detaining just 15 men, reports USA Today. Far more often, men the U.S. Justice Department called “sexually dangerous” predators remained imprisoned for years without a mandatory court hearing before the government was forced to let them go.
The Justice Department has lost or dropped cases against 61 of the 136 men it sought to detain. Some were imprisoned for more than four years without a trial before they were freed. Dozens of others are waiting for their day in court. They remain in a prison unit in Butner, N.C., where authorities and former detainees said explicit drawings of children are commonplace, but where few of the men have received any treatment for the disorders that put them there. Neither the Justice Department nor other watchdog agencies have offered any public assessment of how well the federal civil commitment law works.