Civil commitment laws intended to prevent sexual violence are being considered and enacted by many state legislatures. In their use of "preventive detention" to lock up the "most dangerous," the laws are highly controversial legally and morally. As well, critics raise questions about the extent to which the laws advance their stated goals. Considering the growing expense of these programs, evaluation efforts based on an empirical foundation are imperative. This study collected data on all 116 men committed under Minnesota's program during the period 1975-1996. The authors report descriptive summary data on admission rates and population trends, demographic characteristics of detainees and victims, pre-commitment criminal and mental health histories, and current status of detainees. The article also compares the committed group with sex offenders in the state's correctional system. The article describes the history and functioning of sex offender commitment programs, and draws implications for policy-makers from the data presented.
Copyright 2000 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.