Supreme Court Ruling: Sex offenders can be held in federal prison indefinitely

05/17/2010 // West Palm Beach, Florida, USA // Nicole Howley // Nicole Howley

Washington, D.C.—A Supreme Court ruling will allow federal officials to indefinitely hold “sexually dangerous” inmates after they have finished their prison terms. The landmark ruling was made today, May 17, 2010, which was approved by a 7-2 vote, with Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia dissenting, as reported by

The decision made by the higher court reversed a lower court decision, which determined Congress “overstepped its authority by allowing indefinite detentions of the classified inmates.”

The case originated from the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act. The act, which was signed by president George W. Bush in 2006, authorizes the civil commitment of sexually dangerous federal inmates.

Justice Stephen Breyer stated in the majority opinion 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 or those imprisoned and to maintain the security of those who are imprisoned by who may be affected by the federal imprisonment of others.”

The ruling was spurred from a legal challenge made by four men who served prison terms ranging from three to eight years for charges of possession of child pornography or sexual abuse of a minor. Although their sentences were scheduled to expire over two years ago, prison officials decided there was a serious risk the men would commit sexually violent behavior should they be released.

An administration request was given last year by Chief Justice John Roberts to keep 77 inmates who were convicted of sex crimes from being released from a federal prison in North Carolina. The request was granted to allow the court time to consider the cases.

Legal News Reporter: Nicole Howley-Legal news for government attorneys.

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