Fast Facts About Civil Commitment

Fact 1: Civil commitment is an involuntary process.

Civil commitment is the process of involuntarily committing someone into an institution for the treatment of a mental health issue. Approximately 20 U.S. states have enacted laws permitting the civil commitment of sexual offenders.

Fact 2: Civil commitment is a preventive action.

Civil commitment of sexually violent persons provides a legal mechanism for the confinement of individuals convicted of sexual crimes in a secure treatment facility after incarceration if a court determines the individual is likely to engage in future acts of sexual violence.

Fact 3: Sexual offenders who are placed in civil commitment must meet specific criteria.

To meet the criteria for commitment, a person must have committed a qualifying sexual offense and suffer from a qualifying mental disorder, and the mental disorder must create a high probability that the individual will commit acts of sexual violence in the future. Definitions of qualifying crimes and mental health disorders vary among jurisdictions.

Fact 3: Civil commitment is controversial.

Proponents of civil commitment argue that such provisions offer an important community safeguard by incapacitating a high-risk subgroup of sex offenders. Opponents note that many civil commitment programs release very few sexual offenders, even after they successfully complete treatment, and question whether individuals’ civil rights are being violated by indefinite detainment.

The following citations reflect research, publications, and presentations by current ATSA members.

2018 ATSA Conference