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.
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The following citations reflect research, publications, and presentations by current ATSA members.
- Sexually violent predators and civil commitment: Is selection evidence-based?: Wrighten, Al-Barwani, Moran, McKee, & Dwyer (2015)
- A consumer satisfaction survey of civilly committed sex offenders in Illinois: Levenson, Prescott, & Jumper (2014)
- Comparing sexual offenders at the regional treatment centre (Ontario) and the Florida civil commitment center: Wilson, Looman, Abracen, & Pake (2013)
- Personality assessment inventory scores as predictors of misconduct among sex offenders civilly committed as sexually violent predators: Boccaccini, Rufino, Jackson, & Murrie (2013)
- Civilly committed sex offenders: A description and interstate comparison of populations: McLawsen, Scalora, & Darrow (2012)
- Comparing sexual offenders at the Regional Treatment Centre (Ontario) and the Florida Civil Commitment Center: Wilson, Looman, Abracen, & Pake (2012)
- Behavioral discriminators of sexual sadism and paraphilia nonconsent in a sample of civilly committed sexual offenders: Richards & Jackson (2011)
- Sex offender management, treatment, and civil commitment: An evidence-based analysis aimed at reducing sexual violence: Mercado, Jeglic, Markus, Hanson, & Levenson (2011)
- What can we reasonably expect to accomplish in conducting actuarial risk assessments with sexual offenders in civil commitment settings?: Wilson & Looman (2010)
- Treatment experiences of civilly committed sex offenders: A consumer satisfaction survey: Levenson & Prescott (2009)
- A review of research findings related to the civil commitment of sex offenders: Schneider (2008)
- Evaluation of civil commitment criteria in a high-risk sample of sexual offenders: Abracen & Looman (2006)
- Factors predicting selection of sexually violent predators for civil commitment: Levenson & Morin (2006)
- Revisiting the reliability of diagnostic decisions in sex offender civil commitment: Packard & Levenson (2006)
- Civil commitment of sexual predators: A study in policy implementation: Harris (2005)
- Policy interventions designed to combat sexual violence: Community notification and civil commitment: Levenson (2004)
- Reliability of sexually violent predator civil commitment criteria in Florida: Levenson (2004)
- Sexual predator civil commitment: A comparison of selected and released offenders: Levenson (2004)
- Factors predicting recommendations for civil commitment of sexually violent predators under Florida's Jimmy Ryce Act: Levenson (2003)