Iowa Civil Commitment challenged in federal court

A federal lawsuit challenging Iowa’s civil commitment program is continuing. Nine men say the program is unconstitutional because they’re not given the counseling and services needed for them to be released. 

It’s estimated that more than 5,000 people are held in civil commitment programs in 20 states, though many of those programs are now under close scrutiny.

In Iowa, U.S. District Judge Mark Bennett rejected the state’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit in March, using “Hotel California” lyrics in his 50-page ruling to describe Iowa’s Civil Commitment Unit for Sexual Offenders program: “You can check-out any time you like, But you can never leave!” 

Bennett concluded the men — whom he described as like “the unlucky guest at the eponymous hotel” — have raised legitimate issues about treatment, staffing and funding for the program, which was enacted in 1998 and currently houses 113 men in a century-old former insane asylum.

 A trial was scheduled for November, but that has been delayed, according to the Associated Press.

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