Civil confinement

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Civil confinement is a controversial procedure permitted by a law passed in New York, advocated by the former governor, Eliot Spitzer, allowing the civil commitment of sex offenders because they are deemed by a court to be a danger to themselves or to society. One political commentator on the topic has said, "When the most dangerous sexual predators are due to leave prison ... officials can revoke their freedom and toss them into mental hospitals indefinitely."[1] Essentially, "Civil confinement permits the state to transform a criminal sentence with a specified duration into an indeterminate life sentence."[2] Others argue in favor of the procedure, including one commentator who has advocated its use in the case of a 100-year-old child molester out on bail after serving a life sentence.[3] While certainly not without some controversy, at least 20 states have recently passed laws allowing civil confinement,[citation needed] one of which was ruled constitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States. However, the court recently reversed itself in the same case, Kansas v. Crane. A recent ruling has been interpreted that, "States will have to show that the offenders have a mental illness that causes a lack of control over their own behavior."[4] In Kansas v. Crane (2002), the court ruled that absent a finding of a nearly complete lack of self control, a sex offender may not be committed after he has served his sentence.

Purposes, elements, and factors[edit]

The current standard is that "the offenders have a mental illness that causes a lack of control over their own behavior."[4] Absent a finding of lack of control, there cannot be a commitment of a sex offender.[5]

A sexual predator seeks out harmful situations, and has lost control, while a sexual offender is a category of criminals who has committed a crime in the past.[citation needed]

Committal proceedings[edit]

Authorities who wish to make a civil confinement must institute committal proceedings by a petition to a court of competent jurisdiction. The standard of proof is generally clear and convincing evidence, which is lower than beyond a reasonable doubt, yet higher than probable cause. The person being committed has the Miranda rights that apply to him or her in such proceedings.

A judge hearing a petition for civil confinement must consider several elements or factors, including who may or may not be confined, how much must be proven with what evidence, lack of control, risk of harm to the community generally or to particular persons or classes of persons, and the likelihood of recidivism.[citation needed]

The very first case to be tried under the New York state civil confinement law was Douglas Junco who previously served almost 15 years in a New York prison for attempted rape in a 1992 case. Under New York civil confinement law, a jury ruled he suffered no mental problems and was not a threat, allowing him to go free in August 2007.

He was arrested on rape charges among other charges about six months later and subsequently sentenced to life plus 50 years.

Most recently, December, 2010 a level 3 sex offender, Keith Dare, was arrested on suspicion of a violent rape of a 21 year old woman in Albany, New York. He too was previously released after being deemed mentally stable by a civil confinement jury.


  1. ^ Mark K. Matthews, "Molesters confined even after jail time is up" State Line. Accessed January 24, 2008.
  2. ^ David Rosen, "Sex Offenders, Civil Confinement and the Resurrection of Evil: The New Disappeared," May 10, 2007, Counterpunch. Accessed January 24, 2008.
  3. ^ Don Esmonde, "No mercy due 100-year-old pedophile," December 13, 2009, The Buffalo News. Accessed December 26, 2009.
  4. ^ a b Children's Express Bureau analysis at the US Department of Health and Human Services Web site. Accessed January 24, 2008.[dead link]
  5. ^ "Children's Bureau Express Online Digest: Supreme Court Decision Will Impact Civil Confinement of Sex Offenders". Retrieved 2010-12-23. 

See also[edit]