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

[inthesetimes.com – 8/19/20]

In June 2019, after serv­ing more than 29 years in Illi­nois pris­ons, Otis Arring­ton expect­ed to be released to free­dom: He had fin­ished his time, which he describes as dif­fi­cult and trau­mat­ic, and his exit date was pend­ing. But three days before he was slat­ed to get out, Arring­ton says he was informed that he would, instead, be placed under a new form of con­fine­ment — one with no end date, met­ed out after he had already com­plet­ed the pun­ish­ment imposed by the crim­i­nal courts.

“I was sup­posed to get out, and they kid­napped me,” says Arring­ton, now 62 years old. He is speak­ing over the phone from the Treat­ment and Deten­tion Facil­i­ty in Rushville — a rur­al area in west­ern Illi­nois — where he is one of rough­ly 560 men (or, at least, peo­ple who the state has deemed men) who are being held indef­i­nite­ly under a lit­tle-known ​“civ­il com­mit­ment” statute.

Under this legal mech­a­nism, which exists in at least 20 states and the Dis­trict of Colum­bia, indi­vid­u­als con­vict­ed of cer­tain sex­u­al offens­es (or in some instances con­vict­ed of noth­ing), and deemed to have a men­tal dis­or­der and con­sti­tute a dan­ger to soci­ety, can be invol­un­tar­i­ly com­mit­ted to ​“treat­ment” facil­i­ties after they’ve already served their crim­i­nal sen­tence. While in civ­il com­mit­ment, indi­vid­u­als are sup­posed to receive men­tal health­care and reg­u­lar exam­i­na­tions, and to be released once it is deter­mined they are no longer dan­ger­ous. As the statute that estab­lished civ­il com­mit­ment in Illi­nois in 1998 puts it, indi­vid­u­als are to receive ​“con­trol, care and treat­ment until such time as the per­son is no longer a sex­u­al­ly vio­lent person.”

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.

“We served our time, and then they turn our sen­tence into a life sen­tence,” says Arring­ton. ​“There are guys here who have been here over 20 years.” He adds, ​“You would be amazed at how many res­i­dents have died here.”

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Civil commitment is no different what was done to individuals back in the 1900’s due to psychological problems. They call it treatment, but I call it a wheel same bull crap causing more harm. We’ve as a society and a species haven’t evolved much except in the stupidity department. End this modern day slavery of human trafficking of individuals that are deemed a threat; yet most aren’t and just want to move on!!!

“Stone walls a prison make nor iron bars a cage” their is a lot of meaning in that poem. One person gave a rendition of rape on here and many times she was castrated for her views it seems and it seemed out of place on here but it wasn’t. Sure the old saying, if you can’t take the heat get out of the kitchen but who is in the kitchen with the cook, baker, and candle stick maker. TV commercials in the bast spoke about the mind and yes the mind is a terrible thing to waste. Are authorities… Read more »

I don’t want to stay quiet…This gulag needs to be dismantled and destroyed! The courts keep sending men to civil commitment because they want them out of the way, they want them out of our society. These facilities do not help, rehabilitate, or heal these men, on the contrary, they are very harmful, punitive, and destroy the soul of our men and our society. Nothing worse than authorities telling you that you don’t belong in our society and you need to be locked up for life for one crime, which you have paid dearly for! It is unconstitutional and inhumane!… Read more »

I find that the “better use of tax dollars” argument would really be the best way to tackle this horrible system. The problem is once you have staff and facilities and already invested into operations they’ll always use the excuse that it’s easier to just keep running things as is. And they also use the reasoning that they’ll “do the dirty work” so to the elected officials it’s just an easier way to dispose of people without killing them. This “civil commitment” concept is really just the natural response to the rso phenomenon. “I don’t wanna deal with it, here’s… Read more »

I am a registered citizen in Texas. In 2005 I was transferred to the Hightower unit where the sex offender treatments programs are located. I don’t know why I was moved there 6 years before my release to wait for the 4 month treatment (it is called Education Program rather than treatment), I did the 4 month because of being classified as very low risk. Anyway, to give one example, there was an inmate who had been a 3rd grade teacher with 11 victims. He thought it hilarious that he had 11 victims and only got an 8 year sentence.… Read more »

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