Inside the Endless Nightmare of Indefinite Detention Under “Civil Commitment”

After serving their criminal sentence, these men discover their punishment may never be over.

IN THESE TIMES: Aug. 29, 2020, Susan Lazare


EXCERPT: “Yet, In These Times spoke with peo­ple held in civ­il com­mit­ment, rights advo­cates, schol­ars and lawyers who say that, instead of receiv­ing effec­tive treat­ment, peo­ple held under civ­il com­mit­ment statutes are sub­ject to prison con­di­tions, inad­e­quate men­tal health­care, sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly dubi­ous eval­u­a­tions, and homo­pho­bic bias; they are deprived of mean­ing­ful due process; and they have lit­tle hope of get­ting out any­time soon. Reha­bil­i­ta­tion is not the goal, crit­ics charge, but rather, civ­il com­mit­ment is intend­ed to indef­i­nite­ly detain and pun­ish peo­ple whom soci­ety has deemed unde­sir­able. This con­fine­ment does not rec­ti­fy the harm indi­vid­u­als have done, and there is no evi­dence that civ­il com­mit­ment laws reduce sex­u­al vio­lence in soci­ety, crit­ics say. Instead, they argue, it unleash­es untold new harms: as the site of abuse, trau­ma and, accord­ing to some, sex­u­al violence.”

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