A federal judge in Raleigh has ruled that the federal government can't keep sex offenders in prison beyond their sentences.
The ruling strikes down a law aimed at holding people deemed "sexually dangerous" in mental hospitals.
Federal prison officials have moved to prevent the release of five men at the federal prison hospital in Butner, arguing that the men are "sexually dangerous." That process, known as civil commitment, was approved under a law signed by President Bush in July 2006.
U.S. District Court Judge W. Earl Britt's ruling won't allow those prisoners to be released immediately, because he stayed the decision until the government has a chance to respond.
In his ruling, Britt said the civil commitment is unconstitutional because the federal government cannot hold a person indefinitely out of fear.