United States v. Comstock

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments last month in the case of the United States v. Comstock.  The case involves establishing the limits of the state’s power to use civil commitment law to institutionalize sex offenders who have completed their criminal sentences.  While the case heard before the Supreme Court largely centers on the more or less technical matter of whether the federal government may usurp individual states’ rights in this regard, it has brought national media attention to a development that has been on the rise on both sides of the Atlantic – the use of commitment laws and/or psychiatric facilities to detain convicts, most without a readily apparent diagnosis.  Over the course of the 20th century, countries have adopted a variety of approaches to this issue:  the Institution for Psychopathic Criminals in Denmark, social-therapeutic facilities in the Federal Republic of Germany, and, more recently, long-stay facilities in the Netherlands.

Read the transcript of the Supreme Court hearing here:  http://www.supremecourtus.gov/oral_arguments/argument_transcripts/08-1224.pdf

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