I don't think it's a matter of sanity. It's quite possible that someone knows right from wrong, but is completely unable to control themselves. Therefore they're not insane, but they pose a risk to society. So what do we do? Do we have to let them out and wait for them to commit a crime? Or can we commit them?
And this is why I find I'm torn by the existence of this law. I'm originally from the rural area where Nushawn Williams had unprotected sex with over 40 women (many teenagers) after being told he was HIV positive. He claims to have slept with over 300 women. He infected at least 13 women in Chautauqua County, NY with HIV, and may be responsible for up to 10 more HIV infections in former partners in the New York City area. In the end, all he could be charged with was two counts of statutory rape and one count of reckless endangerment for a maximum sentence of 4 to 12 years. While in prison, he had 21 disciplinary offenses, including throwing his urine on another inmate. He was due to be released April 13, 2010 but he is being held and his case is under review for civil confinement. Here's an article from the Jamestown, NY paper about the situation.
I do believe that there are people who are either criminally insane or are simply unable to control their actions who will endanger the public health and welfare and that our current system of laws can't always address this. Williams essentially handed multiple women, one as young as 13, what was thought to be a death sentence back in 1997. Some of them have died. He had the knowledge to avoid doing that. There wasn't really a law to cover what he did, so they went with what they could make stick, which I think most people feel resulted in a fairly light sentence for the actual gravity of the situation. Since his incarceration, he has used bodily fluids as a weapon. Overall, I am extremely leery of putting Williams back out on the street just yet.
That said, I don't like civil confinement laws. They're an incredibly slippery slope. If we can do this for one type of criminal, why not another? Who do I trust to make sure that they aren't being abused to lock inconvenient people away forever?
If they exist at all, they should only exist with extreme safeguards. 1) Only for violent offenders. 2) Only for those at an extremely high level of risk to reoffend. 3) Regular rehabilitation and treatment plan for each person, and routine reassessment of them for possible re-integration back into society. 4) Must be examined by multiple psychiatrists and consensus reached that person was still extreme threat. 5) Ability to have case for release argued before jury of citizens after a certain amount of time in civil confinement has passed.
But how practical is that?
Even then, the thought makes me sick to the stomach. I can see both sides. There are a few people I can see this being a good thing for... but at the same time, I just can't figure out how to implement it well enough so that it isn't abused the way I know it will be.
It's hard living in the world when you can see shades of grey and acknowledge that there's probably no good solution. The more time I spend thinking about civil confinement and the more cases I read where they are using it, the more convinced I am that I should oppose it. That said, my mind returns to Nushawn Williams and my reluctance to let him become modern day's Typhoid Mary.