'See This Empty Cage Now Corrode': The International Human Rights and Comparative Law Implications of Sexually Violent Predator Laws
New Criminal Law Review (2020), Forthcoming
75 Pages Posted: 12 May 2020 Last revised: 25 Sep 2020
Date Written: April 27, 2020
From every perspective, our sexually violent predator (SVPA) laws are a miserable failure. In this paper, we present a new approach: a turn to international human rights law as a source of rights for the population in question, and a consideration of the matter from the perspective of comparative law.
To briefly summarize, many nations have enacted laws that both mirror and contradict early developments in United States civil commitment jurisprudence. In these nations, though, challenges to community containment and preventive detention laws have been more successful when based upon international human rights law. Also, registry notification is generally far more limited, and details are usually confined solely to police agencies. We believe that the implications of the laws and court decisions from other nations are necessary to consider when implementing US law reform in this area, and require far more attention than they have received from US scholars and legislators.
This paper will proceed in the following manner. In Part I, we will consider the implications of international human rights law for cases involving the populations in question, and then assess how realistic it is that such law be embraced by domestic jurisdictions in dealing with relevant cases. We will also consider the human rights issues and violations that have resulted from the domestic enactment of “International Megan’s Law.” In Part II, we will apply comparative law, in an effort to determine how other nations have struggled with some of the basic issues that have been focused on by domestic jurisdictions, for the 20+ years since the Supreme Court’s decision in Kansas v. Hendricks, 521 U.S. 346 (1997). In Part III, we will assess the application of therapeutic jurisprudence (TJ) to the legal and human rights issues discussed prior, in an effort to determine whether other nations have more successfully implemented TJ principles to combat some of the seemingly-intractable problems raised in SVPA cases. In part IV, we offer some conclusions and some suggestions for US-based policy-makers in this contentious area of law and social policy.
Keywords: sex offender laws, SVPA, international human rights law, comparative law, therapeutic jurisprudence
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