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The sexual psychopath laws are still with us. They re-emerged in the 1990s under a new rubric—“sexually violent predator” laws—in twenty states that are now incarcerating thousands of people who have already served prison terms for sex offenses. They rely on a legal fiction: that the offenders are so incapable of controlling their behavior that they must be hospitalized immediately under civil commitment procedures. The judicial system would undoubtedly not tolerate such a scheme for burglars or arsonists or even murderers, but the Supreme Court, in Kansas v. Hendricks (1997), did uphold the sexually violent predator laws. The decision, and...

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