Roberts Law Group, PLLC
North Carolina Criminal Defense Attorneys

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A Sentence After Your Sentence - Commitment for Federal Sex Crimes

The federal prison in Butner, North Carolina is made up of four facilities that house and treat individuals convicted of federal crimes: a Federal Medical Center (FMC), two medium security institutions and a low security institution. Also at Butner is a home for those convicted of federal sex crimes that the government doesn't want to release into the public, even after they've served their court-ordered sentence.

Through a process called commitment, a convicted sex offender may be indefinitely detained in a federal prison. Of the nearly 2000 people who go to federal prison each year for sex crimes, very few are actually committed. Only 15 have been approved by a court for commitment.

Instead, what a recent investigation has found is that, without a hearing, the U.S. Department of Justice has branded convicted offenders as 'sexually dangerous predators' and kept them at Butner, up to four or more years beyond their original sentence.

In order to gain court approval for indefinite detainment, the government must prove that:

  1. The convicted offense involved child molestation or a violent sex crime
  2. The offender has a mental disorder
  3. The mental illness will cause the offender 'serious difficulty' in not committing a repeat sex crime

Recidivism among sex offenders, or the likelihood of a convicted sex offender committing another sex crime has been shown to be unlikely, making the last piece of the government's case for commitment a difficult one. Many of the actual commitment cases brought by the Department of Justice, about one in three, are dismissed by the DOJ.

Source:, "Controversial Sexual Predator Law Has Resulted In Only 15 Commitments," March 19, 2012

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