Sexually violent predator evaluations: empirical evidence, strategies for professionals, and research directions

Law Hum Behav. 2005 Feb;29(1):29-54. doi: 10.1007/s10979-005-1398-y.


Several states have passed civil commitment laws that allow the precautionary detention of sex offenders who have completed their criminal sentences. Over 2,500 sex offenders have been committed across states with such statutes and several thousand more sex offenders have been evaluated. Most statutes call for an evaluation of risk by a mental health professional and, although each state statute is worded differently, three main elements common to sexually violent predator evaluations are used to guide evaluators: mental abnormality, volitional capacity, and likelihood of future sexual violence. The current article presents empirical evidence for the main tenants of these forensic evaluations, provides recommendations for evaluators in light of current limitations of evidence, and offers suggestions for future research in this area of forensic assessment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Commitment of Mentally Ill / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Criminal Law
  • Forensic Psychiatry / methods*
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Research
  • Risk Assessment / methods*
  • Sex Offenses / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Sex Offenses / psychology*
  • United States
  • Volition