We now have added "Informational Posts" which are tidbits of information that may come in handy at some point.

Civil Commitment of Sexually Violent Predators

ATSA Position Paper:

Adopted by the ATSA Executive Board of Directors on August 17, 2010


Twenty states (Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin) and the District of Columbia have enacted laws permitting the civil commitment of sexual offenders. In addition, the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 authorized the federal government to institute a civil commitment program for federal sex offenders (42 USC 16971). Typically, these laws provide a legal mechanism for the confinement of a limited number of adult sexual offenders in a secure treatment facility after incarceration when a court determines they are likely to engage in future acts of sexual violence. Texas has an exclusively community-based commitment program and Pennsylvania has a civil commitment program only for juvenile offenders aging out of the delinquency system. To meet the criteria for commitment, the offender must suffer from a mental abnormality or personality disorder predisposing the offender to commit future acts of sexual violence.

The use of civil commitment for sexual offenders has generated considerable debate in legal and clinical professions, and it continues to be debated even among professionals who work with and conduct research on sexual offenders.

Proponents argue that such provisions offer an important community protection safeguard by incapacitating a high risk subgroup of sex offenders. In addition, civil commitment can provide opportunities for these individuals to receive treatment interventions that may reduce their potential to recidivate upon release to the community, particularly offenders for whom specialized treatment was not available in the prison setting.

Objections to civil commitment are generally threefold. First, the legal mechanism by which the offenders are detained when civilly committed depends on clinical criteria primarily created or defined by legislative bodies rather than by the scientific or mental health communities. Second, there is concern about the legitimacy of detaining someone as a mentally ill person when there is some doubt about the accessibility of effective treatment. And third, questions exist about the potential diversion of mental health resources away from individuals diagnosed with severe, persistent, and debilitating mental health difficulties in order to serve a limited population of sexual predators who tend not to have such diagnoses and for whom the use of correctional resources may be more prudent. ..Continued.. by ATSA

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