The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that states can confine violent sexual predators after their prison terms end by showing they have a mental abnormality or personality disorder that makes it difficult for them to control dangerous behavior. [...] Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented. They said a jury determined that Crane suffered from a mental abnormality or personality disorder making it likely that he would commit repeat acts of sexual violence. "That is all the (Kansas law) requires, and all the Constitution demands,'' Scalia said.
The problem is, of course, that they're all wrong. (Yes, I know, they're the justices and I'm not. Humor me.) Scalia and Thomas didn't object to the concept of indefinite sentence, you understand; they thought that Kansas ought to be able to make a simple assertion of future danger in the original jury trial, without proof of ongoing illness. In other words, if, by some miracle, the offender is cured ... nobody would care. Because you were once asserted to be a danger, the state could just stick you under the prison and go about their business.
How is it not cruel and unusual punishment to tell someone, "You will serve 10-20 years for your crime," (or whatever the amount is) and then to turn around and say to them, "Oh, yes, you've served your time, but you're not going anywhere because we think you're still dangerous." Do I want sexual predators out and about among us? No, thanks. That said, we don't do that with any other criminals or any other crime, no matter how likely they are to re-offend. Depending on what exactly they're convicted of, murderers in most states essentially get two strikes before we throw away the key, and in that case, they know that the third murder they commit, they'll be imprisoned for life (or executed) and that's all there is to it. A life sentence or execution is peculiarly definite -- peculiar in that although you don't know for certain when the end it, you'll know it when it gets there.
I dare say that sooner or later, most states will simply get around to making sex offenses carry a life sentence. It is, after all, the easiest way to handle it, and that way, you need not make a determination of whether or not the person is likely to reoffend. You just stick 'em in the jail and forget about 'em.
(Is it just me, or are there all sorts of wacky things coming out of Kansas lately?)Posted by iain at January 22, 2002 05:01 PM