JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – A lawyer for a man who is 25-year prison sentence for rape, argued Thursday that a Missouri law allowing him to be committed indefinitely to a mental institution as a “sexually violent predator” is unconstitutional.
The Missouri Supreme Court heard arguments from the lawyers of Jay Nelson and the state’s sexually violent predator statute.
The law says that if the prisoners must have a “mental abnormality” which makes them act in a sexually violent way, then they should be evaluated before they leave prison.
As a team of the Department of Corrections and the Department of Mental Health experts to determine the prisoners still dangerous, a judge may commit the offenders to a secure psychiatric institution after the completion of their criminal sentences.
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People who see themselves as sexually violent predators can’t leave the mental health, until they are assessed and deemed safe to be released.
Nelson was convicted of rape in 1989. While in prison, he was accused of sexually assaulting female guards.
The state then classified Nelson as a sexually violent predator, and he is in 2015 to the Department of Mental Health until doctors determine he is safe for release.
Nelson’s lawyer argued in the Supreme Court that the requirements for the release, as set out in the statute, are impossible to meet. She said: “no person in Missouri dedicated to the program is released after he himself as a sexual predator.
Nelson’s lawyer, Chelsea Mitchell, said the high-security facility where Nelson was sent is not an adequate environment for treatment.
She has also disputed the language “sexually violent predator,” says the term was inflammatory and may affect the way members of the jury viewed Nelson during the hearing on the question of whether to commit him to a psychiatric institution.
The state’s lawyer, Gregory Goodwin, said the wording made no difference in the process.
“The term sexually violent predator is just a term,” he said.
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Goodwin also said that, although people committed to the Department of Mental Health have the ability to be released, there is no obligation to be discharged at any point.
The judges questioned Mitchell on whether Nelson had exhibited behavior that may one day allow him to be released from the mental health system. Mitchell urged the judges not ‘conflate Nelson’s behavior” with the wording of the articles of association.
This is not the first time Missouri’s sex offender rehabilitation faced with legal action. A federal lawsuit originally filed in 2009, claimed that the program was “mismanaged, underfunded, understaffed and in violation of the United States and Missouri Constitutions.”
In that case, the court ruled in 2015 the statute, which the program itself was not unconstitutional, but that the “systemic errors relating to the assessment of risks and release” resulted in long term incarceration for people who did not meet the detention criteria.