WASHINGTON — In a broad endorsement of federal power, the Supreme Court on Monday ruled that Congress has the authority under the Constitution to allow the continued confinement of some sex offenders after they have completed their criminal sentences.
Not all sex offenders are created equal, but many of them, as the old saying goes, are the scum of the earth. What I don't get, frankly, is that if we think that people need to be locked away, we should be able to do that through the normal system of justice, which is a trial presided over by a judge, with the right to a jury.
In the case of a child sex offenders, there are two outstanding justifications for sentencing them to prison under that traditional system of justice for a long. long time. The first reason is the high rate of recidivism, which is partly the motivation behind this case before the Supreme Court. The other reason is that they've done something really, really awful on a par with the other things we lock people up for a long time, even for life -- murder and rape and kidnapping.
Instead, we give them not-so-long sentences-- but now create an extra-legal process for keeping them behind bars, or we release them into society but as a second-class citizen, which is the result of something like Megan's Law. I don't get that.
This is the flip side of the terror suspects that we continue to hold at Gitmo with no plans for a trial or eventual release. In that case, we know they're bad guys, but we don't want to bring them to trial because we may not be able to prove it. The only difference is that one is before a trial ever starts, and the other comes after a sentence is supposed to end. Either way, it's locking people up outside of the boundaries of what is supposed to be the best criminal justice system in the world, but which we apparently no longer trust.
Your Department of Pre-Crime hard at work