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(95-1649),
Opinion
[ Thomas ]
Concurrence
[ Kennedy ]
Syllabus
Dissent
[ Breyer ]
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Nos. 95-1649 and 95-9075


KANSAS, PETITIONER 95-1649 v. LEROY HENDRICKS LEROY HENDRICKS, PETITIONER 95-9075

on writs of certiorari to the supreme court of kansas

[June 23, 1997]

Justice Kennedy, concurring.

I join the opinion of the Court in full and add these additional comments.

Though other issues were argued to us, as the case has matured it turns on whether the Kansas statute is an ex post-facto law. A law enacted after commission of the offense and which punishes the offense by extending the term of confinement is a textbook example of an ex post-facto law. If the object or purpose of the Kansas law had been to provide treatment but the treatment provisions were adopted as a sham or mere pretext, there would have been an indication of the forbidden purpose to punish. The Court's opinion gives a full and complete explanation why an ex post-facto challenge based on this contention cannot succeed in the case before us. All this, however, concerns Hendricks alone. My brief, further comment is to caution against dangers inherent when a civil confinement law is used in conjunction with the criminal process, whether or not the law is given retroactive application.

It seems the dissent, too, would validate the Kansas statute as to persons who committed the crime after its enactment, and it might even validate the statute as to Hendricks, assuming a reasonable level of treatment. As all Members of the Court seem to agree, then, the power of the state to confine persons who, by reason of a mental disease or mental abnormality, constitute a real, continuing, and serious danger to society is well established. Addington v. Texas, 441 U.S. 418, 426-427 (1979). Confinement of such individuals is permitted even if it is pursuant to a statute enacted after the crime has been committed and the offender has begun serving, or has all but completed serving, a penal sentence, provided there is no object or purpose to punish. See Baxstrom v. Herold, 383 U.S. 107, 111-112 (1966). The Kansas law, with its attendant protections, including yearly review and review at any time at the instance of the person confined, is within this pattern and tradition of civil confinement. In this case, the mental abnormality--pedophilia--is at least described in the DSM-IV. American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 524-525, 527-528 (4th ed. 1994).

Notwithstanding its civil attributes, the practical effect of the Kansas law may be to impose confinement for life. At this stage of medical knowledge, although future treatments cannot be predicted, psychiatrists or other professionals engaged in treating pedophilia may be reluctant to find measurable success in treatment even after a long period and may be unable to predict that no serious danger will come from release of the detainee.

A common response to this may be, "A life term is exactly what the sentence should have been anyway," or, in the words of a Kansas task force member, "So be it." Testimony of Jim Blaufuss, App. 503. The point, however, is not how long Hendricks and others like him should serve a criminal sentence. With his criminal record, after all, a life term may well have been the only sentence appropriate to protect society and vindicate the wrong. The concern instead is whether it is the criminal system or the civil system which should make the decision in the first place. If the civil system is used simply to impose punishment after the State makes an improvident plea bargain on the criminal side, then it is not performing its proper function. These concerns persist whether the civil confinement statute is put on the books before or after the offense. We should bear in mind that while incapacitation is a goal common to both the criminal and civil systems of confinement, retribution and general deterrence are reserved for the criminal system alone.

On the record before us, the Kansas civil statute conforms to our precedents. If, however, civil confinement were to become a mechanism for retribution or general deterrence, or if it were shown that mental abnormality is too imprecise a category to offer a solid basis for concluding that civil detention is justified, our precedents would not suffice to validate it.