You Seem Like a Dangerous Sex Offender, Or the Indefinite Detainment of Americans


Indefinite detainment of American citizens got you down? Never fear, it's already here and it's been here for at least the past six years. The recipients are the one group of people who are possibly even less sympathetic than suspected terrorists; they would be convicted federal sex offenders.

USA Today has a detailed and disturbing account of the rather dubious ways in which these offenders are dubbed "sexually dangerous":

Six years ago, the federal government set out to indefinitely detain some of the nation's most dangerous sex offenders, keeping them locked up even after their prison sentences had ended.

But despite years of effort, the government has so far won court approval for detaining just 15 men.

Far more often, men the U.S.Justice Department branded as "sexually dangerous" predators, remained imprisoned here for years without a mandatory court hearing before the government was forced to let them go, a USA TODAY investigation has found. The Justice Department has either lost or dropped its 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 still waiting for their day in court. They remain in a prison unit 

 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.

The implication and the motivation for grim laws like Megan's law which allowed for sex offender databases is that pedophiles and other such criminals are repeat offenders. Therefore they are so dangerous that they need to have an eye kept on them even after they have served out their terms in jail.

To take one nasty example of a seemingly perpetual offender:

Jay Abregana stands out. His record was already sordid when the government certified him as sexually dangerous — he had been convicted of mailing pictures of himself having oral sex with a teenage boy  and of exposing himself  to a 12-year-old in a movie theater. In prison, he was kicked out of a sex offender treatment program  after he performed oral sex on five inmates. When he got out, he violated his probation by having "sexual contact " with a 17-year-old in a shopping mall bathroom, and using the Internet to reach out to three other boys , one just 10.

Psychologists certified that Abregana was sexually dangerous in 2007. In 2008, a federal judge ordered the government to release him , concluding the Justice Department couldn't prove his attraction to boys who had reached puberty was a sufficiently serious mental disorder, or that he would have "serious difficulty" not re-offending.

But USA Today also notes some cases of the so-called sexually dangerous for whom it's possible to feel a tiny twinge of sympathy. Or at least those who warrant a moment of consideration that yes, there are different levels of sex offenders:

Andrew Swarm was first diagnosed as a pedophile  more than a decade ago. Hecollected child pornography  on the Internet, and molested at least three young girls,according to court records . But Swarm also seemed to go out of his way to get caught. He gave one 10-year-old girl he fantasized about what appeared to be an explicit drawing of himself, knowing she would give it to her parents . After he inappropriately touched an 11-year-old, he gave her a note  warning that "I want to kiss and touch you in ways that I shouldn't. I need you to make sure I get help and don't have the chance to do this," according to court records.

Swarm said he agonized over his impulses. He tried to get treatment. He tried to get caught. He tried to castrate himself with rubber bands . "I don't go out and molest children. I've never done that," he said. "It was such a misery in the first place to have these feelings. It was a nightmare."

The government certified him as sexually dangerous  in 2007. At the time, he was serving a four-month sentence in prison for violating his probation  by not telling his probation officer quickly enough that a friend had briefly left him alone with a young child, and that another girl had climbed onto his lap while he was visiting relatives before he shooed her off.

"There was no harm, no foul," said the girl's father, whom USA TODAY agreed not to name to protect his daughter's privacy. He said he and his wife plan to ask Swarm's probation officer whether they can resume visiting him. "I honestly don't think he's dangerous," he said.

The judge who ultimately heard Swarm's commitment case — nearly four years after he was detained — agreed and released him 


The rest here.

There are other cases, such as Joseph Edwards, who assaulted and raped a 15-year-old and was sentenced to 84 months in prison. Which, when you think about what some folks get for non-violent offenses (such as as our friend the former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagovich who will get twice as much time in prison than Edwards for the most assuredly nonviolent offense of various corruption charges.) doesn't seem like much. Why try — and eventually fail — to indefinitely detain Edwards for such a repulsive crime instead of just sentencing someone to a more substantial chunk of time? That way there are at least fewer civil liberties problems and maybe people like Edwards go longer without being back on the street.

Truly violent sex criminals are something that all of us who make up society have to deal with, but as usual, the current system does a poor job of fixing this problem and punishes more innocent people when it fails to fix it.

Jacob Sullum on the dark side of sex offender registries, Reason on sex offenders and Reason.tv on the same: