Free Minds & Free Markets

SCOTUS Shouldn't Let Fear of Sex Offenders Trump Justice: New at Reason

Two cases give the Court a chance to reconsider its counterintuitive conclusions about commitment and registration.

Jim Gehrz / ZUMA Press / NewscomJim Gehrz / ZUMA Press / NewscomAccording to the U.S. Supreme Court, locking up sex offenders after they have completed their sentences is not punishment, and neither is branding them as dangerous outcasts for the rest of their lives. Two cases the Court could soon agree to hear give it an opportunity to reconsider, or at least qualify, those counterintuitive conclusions, Jacob Sullum writes.

Karsjens v. Piper is a challenge to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP), which since 1994 has confined more than 700 people who were deemed too "sexually dangerous" to release after serving their prison terms. Although these detainees are supposedly patients rather than inmates, in more than two decades only one of them has ever been judged well enough to regain his freedom.

Another case pending before the Supreme Court, Snyder v. Doe, is an appeal of a 2016 decision in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit ruled that Michigan's Sex Offender Registration Act, ostensibly a form of civil regulation aimed at protecting public safety, is so punitive that its requirements cannot be applied retroactively without violating the constitutional ban on ex post facto laws. The 6th Circuit noted that the law "has grown into a byzantine code governing in minute detail the lives of the state's sex offenders," including onerous restrictions on where they may live, work, and "loiter."

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  • Lily Bulero||

    Of course keeping convicted felons in prison because they're considered dangerous is a punishment!

    Of course imposing registration and other disabilities on convicted felons is a punishment!

    If the Supreme Court said otherwise, they're dumb and should correct their mistake as soon as they possibly can.

  • Conchfritters||

    So you are for indefinite detention of all felons beyond what they were sentenced for?

  • Michael Ejercito||

    Thet were convicted, which means the legislature may decide the tetms of their punishment.

  • Jury Nullification||

    "If the Supreme Court said otherwise, they're dumb and should correct their mistake as soon as they possibly can."

    I just spoke with Chief Justice Roberts and he assured me that SCOTUS would correct that mistake right after it takes care of its understanding that a penalty is really a tax.

    Perhaps it is the insertion of words like "penalty" and subjects dealing with the "penal" system that causes justices to get so flustered that obviously disparate words and understandings become interchangeable. This is not a new phenomenon as you will recall that Justice Potter was not able to articulate what pornography was but he damn sure knew it when he saw it.

    Would bombarding SCOTUS with dictionaries help? No. It's a trick question. You have to bombard them with lexicons because "DICtionaries" would cause more flustering.

  • anuj2017||

  • anuj2017||


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