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Involuntary Commitment of Sexually Violent Predators: Comparing State Laws

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Roxanne Lieb, Kathy Gookin - March 2005

In 1990, the Washington State Legislature passed a new form of involuntary commitment for sex offenders identified as “sexually violent predators” (SVPs). This law permits the state to retain custody of individuals found by a judge or jury to pose risks for reoffending. Since Washington’s enactment, 16 other states have adopted similar laws. Texas requires outpatient treatment rather than confinement; Pennsylvania law pertains only to 20-year-olds “aging out” of the juvenile system.

This paper summarizes key features of the SVP laws, focusing on three questions:

  • How many individuals have been held under these laws?
  • How many have been released under some form of less restrictive alternative?
  • What are the program costs?

Report ID: 05-03-1101

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