Lock’m up and throw away the key

The world’s best newspaper, the New York Times, reported on how the rights of sex offenders are being grievously infringed by them being kept locked up for years and decades after their debts to society are paid, under the rubric of vague psychological diagnoses made within a system where there is no accountability, or appealability. They report that in the NJ system 304 people have gone in over the last 15 years and a grand total of 11 have come out.

They tell the story of a man condemned to another year in custody based on the testimony of a pyschiatrist who had never actually met him that he had a personality disorder of unspecified nature. Another prisoner was about to be released when he had the misfortune of brushing up against a female guard when passing through a narrow doorway; a pyschiatrist testifed that he “might well have had” rape fantasies as he did so; that was good enough to put him away for another year.

We have to understand that the law defines the punishment for crimes and when that punishment has been fulfilled the person comes out. If we don’t like the punishment, then we can change the law. What we can’t do is arbitrarily keep people locked up forever after they finish serving their sentences based on a vague fear that they might repeat their crimes. (Actually, sex criminals repeat their crimes less often than other types.)

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