Dozens of sex offenders in a federal prison in Butner, N.C., have served their time and now are being imprisoned not for what they did, but what they might do, says the Raleigh News & Observer. They are being held – sometimes for years – under a recent federal law that allows the detention of those deemed so dangerous the government will not risk their release even when their sentence is complete.
Federal courts are trying to sort out who should remain in and who should be released from this legal limbo. Lawyers for the detainees say the extended captivity reflects a law that applies a different and unfair standard to sex offenders. They also say many detainees do not meet the level of threat the 6-year-old law requires for indefinite detention. “The law doesn't seem fair to me,” said Raleigh attorney John Keating Wiles, who has represented several of the men. “Traditionally, we don't take away people's liberty because they might commit a crime.” The U.S. Department of Justice has sought to extend the confinement of at least 136 sex offenders since 2006, but almost half the attempts have been rejected by the courts or dropped by the government.