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Civil commitment is a term that describes an order issued by the court, requiring that an individual be involuntarily confined to a mental institution following release from any prison term that has been served (FindLaw, n.d.). Rather than an individual be punished for past crimes, this form of confinement is based on the risk that an individual may commit further criminal offenses in the future. The order of civil commitment is not only limited to sex offenders, as it is generally used for any individual who poses a high threat to themselves and those around them (FindLaw, n.d.). Civil commitments are usually not ordered for a specific amount of time and remain in place until a mental health examiner has deemed them no longer a threat to others (FindLaw, n.d.).

Those individuals who are convicted of sex crimes comprise a diverse group of individuals who engage in sexually abusive behavior that is in differing frequencies and for a variety of reasons (Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (ATSA), 2015). Each offender maintains varying levels of risk for future criminal behaviors. Civil commitment can carry both advantages and disadvantages to the communities of which the sex offenders reside. One strength of civil commitment would be the prevention of repeat offenses. By ensuring that violent sexual predators are “off the streets,” the court systems will be preventing repeat offenses from occurring. However, that does not solve the problem unless the offender is mandated to participate in extensive treatment while committed. If the offender does not receive treatment for the crimes that have been committed, the behaviors will not change upon release. The civil confinement of individuals does not guarantee a change in the actions (ATSA, 2015); thus, extensive monitoring should follow the offender once released back into the community.

When it comes to providing treatment, service providers must first know the extent of services that are needing to be delivered. Civil commitment programs should develop transitional steps for sex offenders to be transitionally released into a less restrictive environment before releasing them back into their community. The transition should include a plan that provides for community visitations, work release programming, appropriate housing, appropriate employment, family support systems, ample supervision, and monitoring, along with ongoing treatment as the prior mentioned play a critical role in the successful reentry into their community. The intensity of services that an offender receives should be matched to the offender’s level of risk and need to make the transition successful.


Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (ATSA). (2015). Civil commitment of sexual offenders. Retrieved from…

FindLaw. (n.d.). Civil commitment for sex offenders. Retrieved from…

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