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?