Federal Sex Offenders Can Be Detained Through Civil Commitment
Federal sex offenders and sex offenders in 20 states and the District of Columbia are not automatically released when they have served their criminal sentence. Instead, federal laws and the laws of these 20 plus jurisdictions allow for a procedure called a civil commitment. Civil commitments have been used by prosecutors in these jurisdictions to detain sex offenders indefinitely. Some violent sex offenders have been held for over 20 years. Sex offenses include rape and child molestation
Finally, one courageous Federal District Judge, Donavan Frank, has called for a review of Minnesota’s civil commitment laws as they have been applied to sex offenders. The judge ordered that Minnesota come up with constitutional reforms by September, 2015 or face a stronger judicial solution. It is also hoped that other states and the U.S. Congress will review the abuse of these laws and provide fairer and just solutions.
Civil Commitment History
According to The New York Times, approximately 5,000 people convicted of having committed a sex crime have not been released even though their criminal term was completed. Instead, they have been transferred to more costly civil commitment facilities on often nothing more than a hunch that they might commit another crime.
Many of the civil commitment laws enacted in the 1990s were originally designed to treat people with mental illnesses who were a danger to themselves or others. More and more, because of the fear that sexual offenders cannot be treated, the civil commitment laws are being used to detain sex offenders.
The detainments are based on the representation of the prosecution. The burden shifts to the sex offender to show a crime will never be committed again. Most sex offenders do not receive any real viable treatment while being detained.
Judge Donovan Frank’s Ruling
Judge Frank found that the rules for detainment do not have proper criminal justice safeguards. Mental health professionals are not making the detainment decision. The prosecutors are using screening tests that have not been tested for accuracy.
In Minnesota alone, over 700 people have been detained after their sentence has finished, the highest rate in the nation. Significantly, not one individual has been released from the program without conditions. Worse, Minnesota does not re-evaluate the offender’s threat potential.
The repeat offender rate for sex offenders is actually less than for other, although it is important to note that sex offenses often are not reported. Notably, the sex offense statistics for the 30 states that do not have the civil commitment laws are not worse since their laws are more favorable to violent sex offender detainees.
One of the answers Camden County criminal lawyer know is that more community supervision and better treatment is better than pushing the boundaries of what is constitutional.
Camden County Criminal Lawyer, Jill R. Cohen, Fights for All Criminal Defendants
Jill R. Cohen, a former prosecutor, knows that federal and state prosecutors will often push the limits to keep someone in jail. This includes sex offenders who are detained long after their original sentence is complete. Camden County criminal lawyers at the Law Offices of Jill R. Cohen fight for criminal defendants by working with qualified mental health professionals. Call our firm or submit our online form. Our offices are located in Westmont, New Jersey. We defend clients charged with crimes in Camden County, Gloucester County, Burlington County and Atlantic County and throughout South Jersey.