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Supreme Court: Sex Offenders Can be Held After Prison Term Ends

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that some sex offenders can be held indefinitely in prison after their terms are up. In a 7-2 vote, the Court said inmates who are determined to be "sexually dangerous" could be held even after they finish their sentences.

In 2006, then-President Bush signed the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, which authorized the civil commitment of sexually dangerous federal inmates.

Speaking for the majority, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote:

"The statute is a 'necessary and proper' means of exercising the federal authority that permits Congress to create federal criminal laws, to punish their violation, to imprison violators, to provide appropriately for those imprisoned and to maintain the security of those who are not imprisoned by who may be affected by the federal imprisonment of others."

However, Justice Clarence Thomas, who along with Justice Antonin Scalia, dissented, writing that nothing in the Consititution "expressly delegates to Congress the power to enact a civil commitment regime for sexually dangerous persons, nor does any other provision in the Constitution vest Congress or the other branches of the federal government with such a power."

The law was challenged by four inmates who were convicted of sex offenses, then denied release from prison after they served their time because officials determined they were likely to commit similar crimes again.


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