The Iowa Supreme Court has ruled on a case involving the most violent sex offenders — the one’s the state wants to keep locked up forever. Sex offenders who’ve served their sentences but are considered “sexually violent” must awaiting a court hearing to determine if they’ll be “committed” and sent to the state’s sexual predators unit.
The Iowa Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit, suggesting inmates who’ve completed their sentences should be allowed to post bail while they await the outcome of that court proceedings which may ultimately mean they’ll be transferred to that unit for sexual predators.
Randall Wilson of the Iowa Civil Liberties Union says if sex offenders can be held without being allowed to post bail, then it stands to reason the practice could be expanded in the future to cover others whom society deems undesirable. “I hate to use ‘slippery slope’ because it’s used all the time, but this one is a little slippery,” Wilson says.
A federal court had asked Iowa’s Supreme Court to rule on what Iowa law was on the matter and the ruling from the state’s highest court now puts an end to the lawsuit. “Our reaction is one of great disappointment,” Wilson says. “We wouldn’t have brought the case if we didn’t think it had strong implications for civil liberties in Iowa.”
Wilson says the right to bail is a “common law” right that has now been eroded by the court’s ruling. “What we have, basically, is civil preventative detention in Iowa and although today this is being applied to people we generally don’t like and some of us fear, the question is: What groups get identified next as being too dangerous to be allowed to roam the streets?” Wilson says. “Will similar schemes be developed for them as well?”
In its ruling, the Iowa Supreme Court said while the legislature did not address the bail issue specificially, it appears lawmakers clearly intended that the most violent sex offenders be kept in prison to “protect the public.”