- Associated Press - Friday, May 27, 2016

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The Iowa Supreme Court on Friday declined to rule on the constitutionality of a state program that keeps sex offenders in custody after they have completed their prison sentences, rejecting an appeal by a repeat sex offender seeking his release from the program.

The court upheld the civil commitment of David Taft, who was convicted in 1987 of engaging in lascivious acts with a minor. Within a week of getting out of prison in 1991, Taft molested two children. He went to prison again until 2005 then was kept in custody under Iowa’s civil commitment law for sexually violent predators.

Taft, 46, challenged the law saying some of the requirements for release are unconstitutional.

Under the law, those in the civil commitment program get an annual review to determine whether they qualify for a court hearing to consider their release. To be eligible for consideration, patients must have no major disciplinary reports for six months and a relapse prevention plan approved by a treatment provider.

Taft, who has been diagnosed with anti-social personality disorder and as a pedophile, challenged those two requirements saying they pose unconstitutional impediments to his due process right to be free from confinement. He asked the court to declare them unconstitutional.

A district court judge in August 2013 ruled that Taft’s challenge to the constitutionality of two of the criteria was not ripe for consideration because he failed to meet several other requirements for a final hearing on release and determined the totality of the evidence showed Taft was still at risk to reoffend.

The justices agreed, concluding that Taft’s challenges need not be decided because even if they ruled in his favor, he wouldn’t qualify for release because he has failed to complete a multi-phase treatment program and psychiatrists disagree about his readiness.

Taft’s attorney, Philip Mears, declined to comment about the court’s decision.

Taft, now 11 years into civil confinement, has filed at least 17 lawsuits in state and federal courts challenging various aspects of his treatment and the program itself. Some have been dismissed while others were considered by the Supreme Court or the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

A case in 2012 became a class-action lawsuit and was settled. Another federal case filed in July 2012 is scheduled for trial in November. In it Taft is one of nine men who claim the program is unconstitutional because it doesn’t give them adequate treatment, and that they’re essentially serving life sentences because few offenders complete it.

Another lawsuit filed in 2014 is pending in federal court alleging that women are not subject to civil commitment in Iowa making the program discriminatory against men.

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