Reading about this today, I found that the scope of this particular decision is less scary than I initially assumed -- it's limited to prisoners who meet a standard as being "sexually dangerous", so they're not just being held without due process. Apparently this applies to about 100 prisoners nationwide.
I found this quite scary. One of the petitioners in the case was sentenced to just over 3 years for receipt of child pornography. Essentially, for possessing verboten images. Fine. He knew it was illegal or should have known, so 3 years in prison for possessing images--not touching a child, just obtaining illicit images of a child--is arguably fair and just. But...now he's subject to civil commitment FOR LIFE, not for sexually abusing a child (life incarceration for that would be arguably fair and just), but for possessing images?
The possibility of life in prison not for harming a child, but for merely receiving images of such harm--and after a sentence limited to 3 years was justly imposed by a judge knowing the facts of the case, and served by the offender--does not seem at all fair and just. V for Vendetta was on BBC America last night, and as much as it pains me to make the comparison, I'm reminded of the secret hoards of illicit art and verboten books kept by V and by Stephen Fry's character--will possessing a copy of Nabokov's Lolita one day make you subject first to a short obscenity sentence and then an indefinite civil commitment because anyone who enjoys the book must be a potentially sexually dangerous person? Will there be secret collections of David Hamilton, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Jock Sturges prints, because their owners have to fear being civilly committed if they're ever incarcerated for an unrelated crime? Exactly where will these lines in the sand be drawn, once the tides come in?
This is a dangerous precedent. And, there should be truth in sentencing, period--ten years in jail should be ten years in jail, not five in jail and five on parole, or ten in jail then indefinite civil confinement.