With oral arguments before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court opening May 23, 2023, a member of the NARSOL affiliate in West Virginia looked at these two US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) cases which are cited so often, and prepared a brief review to share.

Smith v. Doe, 538 U.S. 84, 123 S. Ct. 1140, 155 L. Ed. 2d 164 (2003).

This case has been cited 5,990 times in cases and court documents. Alaska’s SORA was challenged as being punitive and thus violating ex post facto (adding punishment after the fact) laws.  The Federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found the act punitive. On grant of certiorari, the Supreme Court Justice Kennedy, held that the Act was nonpunitive and therefore its retroactive application did not violate the ex post facto clause. The case was reversed by SCOTUS on a 6-3 decision. The most commonly cited quote is the following paragraph:

Alaska could conclude that a conviction for a sex offense provides evidence of substantial risk of recidivism. The legislature’s findings are consistent with grave concerns over the high rate of recidivism among convicted sex offenders and their dangerousness as a class. The risk of recidivism posed by sex offenders is “frightening and high.” McKune v. Lile, 536 U.S. 24, 34, 122 S.Ct. 2017, 153 L.Ed.2d 47 (2002); see also id., at 33, 122 S.Ct. 2017 (“When convicted sex offenders reenter society, they are much more likely than any other type of offender to be rearrested for a new rape or sexual assault” (citing U.S. Dept. of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Sex Offenses and Offenders 27 (1997); U.S. Dept. of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 1983, p. 6 (1997))).

Smith v. Doe, 538 U.S. 84, 103, 123 S. Ct. 1140, 1153, 155 L. Ed. 2d 164 (2003).  NOTE: Smith v Doe has been cited 86 times with negative treatment (contrary findings) since 2003 in other court cases.

McKune v. Lile, 536 U.S. 24, 122 S. Ct. 2017, 153 L. Ed. 2d 47 (2002).

This case has been cited 3,584 times in cases and court documents. Lile was challenging his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination by being compelled to admit his sexual assault in order to pass sex offender classes administered by the state while incarcerated in Kansas. Kansas prison officials ordered respondent to participate in a Sexual Abuse Treatment Program (SATP). As part of the program, participating inmates are required to complete and sign an “Admission of Responsibility” form, in which they accept responsibility for the crimes for which they have been sentenced. Here the Federal 5th Circuit agreed with Lile and the case was reviewed by SCOTUS. Supreme Court Justice Kennedy, held that adverse consequences faced by state prisoner for refusing to make admissions required for participation in sexual abuse treatment program were not so severe as to amount to compelled self-incrimination. The case was reversed by SCOTUS on a 5-4 decision. The most commonly cited quotes are the following:

Therapists and correctional officers widely agree that clinical rehabilitative programs can enable sex offenders to manage their impulses and in this way reduce recidivism. See U.S. Dept. of Justice, Nat. Institute of Corrections, A Practitioner’s Guide to Treating the Incarcerated Male Sex Offender xiii (1988) (“[T]he rate of recidivism of treated sex offenders is fairly consistently estimated to be around 15%,” whereas the rate of recidivism of untreated offenders has been estimated to be as high as 80%.

and …

The critical first step in the Kansas SATP, therefore, is acceptance of responsibility for past offenses. This gives inmates a basis to understand why they are being punished and to identify the traits that cause such a frightening and high risk of recidivism.

McKune v. Lile, 536 U.S. 24, 33–34, 122 S. Ct. 2017, 2025, 153 L. Ed. 2d 47 (2002) NOTE: McKune v. Lile has been cited 38 times with negative treatment (contrary findings) since 2002 in other court cases.

The recidivism battle will continue this week in oral arguments opening May 23 in the PA Supreme Court case in Commonwealth v.Torsilieri 2. The next quotes we see about recidivism from SCOTUS will likely come from this PA case.

FAC thanks Stephen for sharing this review.  Stephen is a member of the NARSOL Affiliate in West Virginia.

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