Civil Commitment Pretends Prisoners Are Patients

By Jacob Sullum . . . 

“It was my understanding that I was to do the treatment, then be released,” says Mike Whipple, who recently participated in a 14-day hunger strike at the Minnesota Sex Offender Program’s facility in Moose Lake. “Twelve years later, I’m still here, doing the same thing, over and over and over.”

So far the civil commitment program has incarcerated Whipple three times longer than the prison sentence he served. The hunger strike, which involved a dozen of the program’s 737 “clients,” ended last week after state officials promised meetings where protesters could air their complaint that there is no “clear pathway” to release from their indefinite confinement. But those meetings surely will not resolve the fundamental problem with programs like this, which evade constitutional constraints by pretending that prisoners are patients.

Twenty states, the District of Columbia, and the federal government have laws that authorize civil commitment of sex offenders who would otherwise be released after serving their prison terms. The Supreme Court upheld the practice in 1997, saying it was appropriate for people who “suffer from a volitional impairment rendering them dangerous beyond their control.”

That logic is puzzling. The state punishes people who commit sex crimes based on the assumption that they could and should have controlled themselves. But when it is time for them to be released after completing the punishment prescribed by law, the state says that was not actually true; now they must be locked up precisely because they can’t control themselves.

If the government decided to retroactively increase an offender’s penalty, it would be clearly unconstitutional, amounting to double jeopardy or an ex post facto law. The trick is to cast continued confinement as treatment rather than punishment.

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    • #80497 Reply
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      Perry

      You’ve got to wonder: Just how long does this kind of ongoing ‘Re-Punishment’ keep happening until one day a whole bunch of Families decide to either Class Action Sue a State for it’s resulting effects on them, for keeping their Loved Ones away from them. Or: Violence breaks out against those who Profit the most from such ‘Laws & Court Rulings’, and it may well turn out to be the very Children of those still held in ‘Civil Commitment’ who as Adults, decide to ‘Take Things Out Against The System’! Now, there will be those who will say: “Yeah, You gave such people the idea to begin with by writing this.” Uhh…NO.  How do you know some of them already hadn’t thought of the same thing themselves? So for those of you that continue promoting the ‘Registry Matters’ Idea, I sincerely hope one or more of those same Kids-who will grow up mind you-won’t decide to come visiting YOUR Residence and making you pay for assisting in this Insane Concept!
      Nuff Said.

    • #80521 Reply
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      LJ

      My question is what mental health condition are these people being diagnosed with? In order to be “treated” for anything, there has to be a diagnosis. This diagnosis has to be from the DSM V in order to be legitimate. There are no diagnoses in the DSM V that are called “sex offender.” How can ANY professional get away with treating anyone for a condition that hasn’t been diagnosed nor even exists? Making those psychologists or psychiatrists formally diagnose these “patients” will put an end to this practice because then we could go after the license of each of them. They are required by their own professional ethics (in most states at least) to adhere to science-based treatments. They cannot point to any science in these cases.

      It’s time to make the psychs in this industry pay for their participation. Medical doctors no longer participate in executions because it violates their professional ethics! If we can’t get a direct result in court over this practice, it’s time to go after any and all “professionals” who are violating their own ethics by participating in this illegal practice of “treating” patients without even as much as a simple diagnosis.

    • #80529 Reply
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      The Criminalized Man

      How can people “who suffer from a volitional impairment” carry out a hunger strike? Hmmm? It’s about time people see through this psych snake oil.

    • #80695 Reply
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      mut

      if it aint Co-Ed its punishment

    • #80810 Reply
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      Derek

      I witnessed this first hand, they have these witch doctors who are paid guns for the state put these diagnoses on you by looking at your file. The most common is pedafile and or lack of inpulse control if you had more than one count on your charges. They also use anti- personality disorder as another diagnosis. They say because of these fake disorders that you are unable to control your urges and likely to reoffend if not locked up in civil commitment for up to the rest of your life!
      DOC runs these facilities and it is no different than prison. Same cells, same food, same canteen. The only difference is now you are called a patient, not a inmate, and the building is called a hospital not a prison! It’s just a name changing game!! It’s really sad that this is going on in America! It is a crime!! If sex offenders are such a high risk of reoffending as they falsely claim this would still not be humane!

    • #81376 Reply
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      Philip

      Uncontrollable?!? One of he most important things I learned (among many other things) while in sex-offender treatment (not in civil commitment) was that is the urge is uncontrollable, then I would have been impulsively attacking children in grocery stores, in church services, on city sidewalks… etc. Uncontrollable is a lie used to increase the length of punishment. Plain and simple.

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