The future of involuntary civil commitment in the U.S.A. after Kansas v. Hendricks

Behav Sci Law. 2000;18(2-3):153-67. doi: 10.1002/1099-0798(200003/06)18:2/3<153::aid-bsl396>;2-i.


This article examines new sexual predator commitment laws enacted recently in the United States to civilly commit dangerous sex offenders after they have served their prison sentences. It then examines Kansas v. Hendricks, a Supreme Court case that upheld these laws as constitutionally permitted. The article next describes the broad parameters that demarcate the government's civil commitment authority identified by the Supreme Court in that case. The author concludes that Hendricks establishes that the state has expansive civil commitment power much greater than our previous understanding. The government may use civil commitment solely to protect the public from dangerous individuals without proving a medically recognized mental disorder, recent evidence of dangerousness, or a treatment purpose or possibility. Moreover, this quarantine system may be justified by proving the same unlawful behavior for which the individual has already been criminally punished.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / prevention & control
  • Commitment of Mentally Ill / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Commitment of Mentally Ill / trends*
  • Dangerous Behavior
  • Female
  • Forecasting
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sex Offenses / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • United States