So far the civil commitment program has incarcerated Whipple three times longer than the prison sentence he served. The hunger strike, which involved a dozen of the program’s 737 “clients,” ended last week after state officials promised meetings where protesters could air their complaint that there is no “clear pathway” to release from their indefinite confinement. But those meetings surely will not resolve the fundamental problem with programs like this, which evade constitutional constraints by pretending that prisoners are patients.

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