Iowa’s attorney general is asking the legislature to close a loophole in Iowa’s civil commitment law for sex offenders. A law passed in 1999 gave the state the option of keeping sex offenders who’ve served their prison time locked up for mental treatment if a court determines they’re a violent predator likely to strike again.
Inmates have always had the right to appeal the move, but the law did not give the state the right to appeal a lower court ruling that released the sex offender on parole. Mark Smith, an assistant public defender, says that’s fine — as long as the state can’t keep the inmate behind bars during that appeal process.
"The person has already finished their prison sentence. They’ve been held in custody pending a determination as to whether or not they’re a sexually violent predator and the fact finder has determined that they’re not," Smith says, "and the issue is how much longer are we going to hold this person when everybody has said they shouldn’t be held." Representative Rick Olson, a Democrat from Des Moines, agrees. He says civil liberties have been trampled on enough and it’s time to reverse course.