Sexual offender commitment in the United States: legislative and policy concerns

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2003 Jun:989:489-501. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2003.tb07328.x.


Fifteen states and the District of Columbia have laws for the special civil commitment of convicted sexual offenders who are about to be released from penal confinement and do not meet criteria for ordinary psychiatric civil commitment. As of summer 2002, nearly 2500 sexual offenders were hospitalized pursuant to one of these laws. An American Psychiatric Association task force declared that "sexual predator commitment laws establish a non-medical definition of what purports to be a clinical condition without regard for scientific and clinical knowledge," and thus "distort the traditional meaning of civil commitment, misallocate psychiatric facilities and resources, and constitute an abuse of psychiatry." It remains unclear how legislatures in states with these laws will respond to the U.S. Supreme Court's 2002 decision in Kansas v. Crane indicating that, absent a finding that an offender has "serious difficulty controlling behavior" (not an explicit commitment criterion in any state), commitment is invalid.

Publication types

  • Legal Case

MeSH terms

  • Commitment of Mentally Ill / economics
  • Commitment of Mentally Ill / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Commitment of Mentally Ill / statistics & numerical data
  • Criminal Law / economics
  • Criminal Law / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Forensic Psychiatry / economics
  • Forensic Psychiatry / methods
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis
  • Mental Disorders / economics
  • Mental Disorders / therapy*
  • Public Policy*
  • Sex Offenses / economics
  • Sex Offenses / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Sex Offenses / prevention & control*
  • United States
  • Violence