Reintegrating into civilian society after a long prison term can be difficult for anyone. Finding a place to live and a way to support yourself is challenging, especially for people who don’t have a strong network of family and friends to help them out.
The process can be even more troubling for individuals convicted of violent sex crimes and other offenses carrying significant social stigma. Too often, these people are rejected by their communities, even though they are legally authorized to be released from prison.
One such case is currently playing out in the California courts. It concerns Tibor Karsai, a convicted sex offender. After serving more than 26 years in prison, he was set to be released on April 16th. Since Karsai did not have a primary residence, he was going to be released into Santa Barbara County, where he lived prior to his incarceration.
County officials and residents balked, saying that they did not want a convicted violent sex offender moving into their community. County District Attorney Joyce Dudley contested the release; she either wanted Karsai to be kept in prison or released into a different community.
The Third District Court of Appeals in Sacramento denied Dudley’s request. She is now taking her case directly to the state Supreme Court. In the meantime, prison officials have stayed Karsai’s release, meaning that he will remain in prison until the Supreme Court decides how to act.
By law, the Supreme Court has 60 days from the date of request to decide whether it will review a case.
Indefinite Detention Is Unjust
If the Supreme Court does decide to grant Dudley’s request, it would set a dangerous precedent that could seriously impact the lives of thousands of California inmates.
Essentially, Dudley’s claim is that because Karsai was convicted of a violent sex offense, he is deemed a “predator” who cannot be trusted to live in his community. If Karsai can be kept in prison based on a community’s fears of the unknown, inevitably others will receive similar fates. Where will the line be drawn?
The American justice system is based on the principle that a person should be allowed to repay their debt to society and then rebuild their life once their sentence is completed. Surely there are better alternatives than indefinite detention to address a community’s fear that an individual might reoffend.
Karsai’s case sheds light on the seriousness of a sex offense conviction in California. If you have been charged with any type of sex crime, you should speak with an aggressive and experienced Riverside/San Bernardino criminal defense firm with a strong track record of aggressively fighting for their clients.