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Commitment of Sexual Offenders in California


In the United States of America, sexual offenders have attracted a lot of attention in relation to the risk assessment for recidivism (Doren, 2002). The risk assessment for recidivism is an estimate of the likelihood of an offender to revert to illegal behavior after the jail term (Beggs & Randolph, 2010). The state of California has enacted laws that permit keeping sexual offenders in jail because of the estimated potential of recidivism. This legal procedure is called civil commitment. The following paper describes the eligibility laws and qualifying disorders for civil commitment of sexual offenders in the state of California.

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Eligibility Laws and Qualifying Disorders for Sexual Offenders

The Sexually Violent Predator (SVP) statute is used in the civil commitment of sexual offenders. The statute provides the legal framework for the assessment of the offenders before they are released to the public. An assessment aims to determine whether the offender has a mental disorder that warrants classification as an SVP and the likelihood to engage in future acts of sexual predatory. The verification of SVP status is based on two elements. The first element is the determination that the inmate is a repeat sexual violent offender and secondly whether he/she suffers from a behavioral abnormality (Doren, 2002). The eligibility of the civil commitment based on the first element relates to the number of times the offender has been convicted for sexual offenses.

On the other hand, behavioral abnormality is determined by forensic psychologists and psychiatrists. In this case, the SVP is determined based on the specific sex crime committed and the tendency to repeat the sexual offense. The repeat of the crime may be due to a mental disorder (Hanson, Lunetta, Phenix, Neeley & Epperson, 2014). The California Department of Correction and Rehabilitation defines mental disorders as “a congenital or acquired condition affecting the emotional or volitional capacity that predisposes the person to the commission of criminal sexual acts in a degree constituting the person a menace to the health and safety of others” (Yell, 2010, p. 473).

However, there are arguments that the classification of the SVP is based on subjective evaluation of psychologists, which may be biased.

Assessment of a Sexual Offender

In order to assess a sexual offender, the author will use a pure actuarial approach. This entails the application of an assessment instrument that is composed of a weighted set of factors. The actuarial assessment instrument is important because it identifies the presence or absence of specific risk factors (Beggs & Randolph, 2010). The approach was used in the Kansa v. Hendricks case in which civil commitment was upheld for Leroy Hendricks who had strings of sexual offenses (Miller, 2010). This was based on the identification of specific risk factors. An example of the pure actuarial approach is the use of the Static-99R (Static Sex Offender Risk Assessment Instrument). The Static-99R is very accurate. For instance, it has a recidivism rating of 29% for high-risk offenders and 1.6% recidivism rating for low-risk offenders (Hanson et al., 2014). It combines different factors; hence, the reliability and validity. The use of the instrument to assess a sexual offender ensures that the risk estimate for recidivism is based on a standard procedure.


The eligibility for civil commitment in California is based on the Sexually Violent Predator statute. The statute mandates judges to appoint two state psychiatrists or psychologists to assess the likelihood of an offender reverting to sexual crimes after the jail term. The laws call for use of valid and reliable assessment instruments. An example of a valid instrument for assessing sex offenders is the Static-99R.


Beggs, S., & Randolph, G. (2010). Assessment of dynamic risk factors: An independent validation of the Violence Risk Scale: Sex offender Version. A Journal of Research and Treatment, 22(1), 234-251.

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Doren, D. (2002). Evaluating sex offenders: a manual for civil commitment proceedings. Kingston, NJ: Civic Research Institute.

Hanson, R., Lunetta, A., Phenix, A., Neeley, J., & Epperson, D. (2014). The field validity of Static-99/R sex offender risk assessment tool in California. Journal of Threat Assessment and Management, 1(2), 102-108.

Miller, J. A. (2010). Sex offender civil commitment: The treatment paradox. California Law Review, 1(1), 2093-2128.

Yell, N. (2010). California Sexually Violent Predator Act and the Failure to Mentally Evaluate Sexually Violent Child Molesters. Golden Gate University Law Review, 33(2), 7-9.

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StudyCorgi. (2022, January 14). Commitment of Sexual Offenders in California. Retrieved from


StudyCorgi. (2022, January 14). Commitment of Sexual Offenders in California.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Commitment of Sexual Offenders in California'. 14 January.

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