Sexually Dangerous Prisoners Can Stay Longer in Prison Says US Supreme Court
The highest court in the United States ruled Monday, May 17, that the US Congress has the power to enact laws that will hold criminals branded as “sexually dangerous” longer than their sentences have required.
The vote was 7 – 2 with associate justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissenting.
Justice Stephen Breyer, who wrote the ruling, said that “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 but who may be affected by the federal imprisonment of others.”
The case started out when the US Court of Appeals Fourth Circuit in Richmond decided that Congress overstepped the boundaries when it passed the 2006 law, the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, which enabled the federal government to hold federal prisoners behind bars longer than their sentences indicate if they have been branded as “sexually dangerous.”
Solicitor General Elena Kagan said during the oral arguments that only a small number of prisoners were affected by the law, about 105 out of 188,000 federal inmates.
Justice Thomas in his dissent said that it should be the role of the states to handle “sexually dangerous” prisoners who were about to be released to the community.