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Articles by Barbara Koeppel

Modern-Day Gulag In the Golden State

by Barbara Koeppel, The Washington Spectator, June 4, 2019

Back in 1997, the Supreme Court ruled that the practice known as civil commitment was legal. This meant that 20 states—which had passed laws permitting the ongoing incarceration of sex offenders—could continue to keep the men confined even after they completed ...

Sex Crimes and Criminal Justice: Formerly Incarcerated Sex Offenders Say Civil Commitment Programs Deny Proper Rehabilitation

by Barbara Koeppel, The Washington Spectator

Responding to several highly-publicized sex crimes and public fears, legislatures across the country have adopted statutes that allow the continued imprisonment of sex offenders after they have completed their sentences. Veteran investigative reporter Barbara Koeppel has spent the past 12 months reporting on this third rail of the criminal justice system. Here are her findings.

Since the 1990s, 20 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws that direct the attorneys general in these jurisdictions to appoint professionals to evaluate whether sex offenders who have served their time have a mental abnormality or illness that would make them likely to re-offend.

If the decision is yes, the men are re-incarcerated – not for past crimes but for ones they might yet commit – in prison-like facilities with barbed wire, cells, guards and watch towers. While institutionalized, they receive therapy that, theoretically, will help them control their sexual impulses.

The practice is known as civil commitment.

The crimes that inspired this legislation were indeed brutal: In Washington state, Earl Shriner, who was imprisoned for sex offenses against children, completed his sentence and later raped and mutilated a young boy. The state then passed the ...