Civil Commitment Cases
4th Circuit Court of Appeals holding that district court lacked the authority to dismiss a commitment proceeding against someone who was not competent to stand trial, and that furthermore such a commitment proceeding would not offend Due Process protections.
Virginia Supreme Court holding that Due Process does not require the state appoint expert witnesses for indigent respondents in the context of SVP hearings.
8th Circuit Opinion affirming the dismissal of an equal protection and gender discrimination claim brought by a group of civilly committed individuals in Iowa’s SOCC facility.
Civil Commitment Secondary Materials
Twenty-one states and the federal government have civil commitment schemes that provide for the further confinement of sex offenders after they have completed their prison sentences. These schemes survive constitutional scrutiny on the grounds that they are not a second prison sentence, but rather serve the non-criminal ends of protecting society and helping treat violent sex offenders. The underlying legislation confirms the treatment objective by elaborating statutory guidelines for treatment programs. This Comment argues that treatment–although guaranteed by statute, legislative findings, case law, and the constitution–is an empty promise. Indeed, participation in treatment harms the very offender that it purports to help. This treatment paradox arises because successful treatment and relapse prevention require that an offender discuss his sexual fantasies and past transgressions; yet, unprotected by privilege or confidentiality, these cathartic admissions are utilized in civil commitment proceedings to secure further confinement. Because the prosecution heavily relies on treatment records to show that the offender continues to suffer from a mental abnormality and because the completion of treatment does not favorably impact an offender’s chance of release, offenders often elect to forgo treatment. This treatment disincentive effectively denies offenders the opportunity to heal and to obtain release from commitment through treatment, an opportunity envisioned by statute and by the civil commitment scheme’s constitutional underpinnings.
Arielle W. Tolman, Sex Offender Civil Commitment to Prison Post-Kingsley, 113 Nw. U. L. Rev. 155 (2018) [Ed Note: This article is published as Arielle W. Tolman, Sex Offender Civil Commitment Post-Kingsley, 113 Nw. U. L. Rev. 155 (2018). The abs …
Sex offender civil commitment (SOCC) is a massive deprivation of liberty as severe as penal incarceration. Because it eschews most of the “great safeguards” constraining the criminal power, SOCC demands careful constitutional scrutiny. Although the Supreme Court has clearly applied heightened scrutiny in judging civil commitment schemes, it has never actually specified where on the scrutiny spectrum its analysis falls. This article argues that standard three-tier scrutiny analysis is not the most coherent way to understand the Supreme Court’s civil commitment jurisprudence. Rather than a harm-balancing judgment typical of three-tier scrutiny, the Court’s civil commitment cases are best understood as forbidden purpose cases, a construct that is familiar in many areas of the Court’s constitutional analysis…
Civil Commitment News
By Sessi Blanchard | July 15th, 2019 On July 7, 2018, Kendra Michelle Lovejoy did to herself what no one else would: surgery. Wielding a disposable razor, she made incisions into her testicles. She was rushed to the hospital where physicians performed …Posted: July 15, 2019
By Barbara Koeppel | June 4th, 2019 Back in 1997, the Supreme Court ruled that the practice known as civil commitment was legal. This meant that 20 states—which had passed laws permitting the ongoing incarceration of sex offenders—could continue to kee …Posted: June 12, 2019
Arielle W. Tolman, Sex Offender Civil Commitment to Prison Post-Kingsley, 113 Nw. U. L. Rev. 155 (2018) [Ed Note: This article is published as Arielle W. Tolman, Sex Offender Civil Commitment Post-Kingsley, 113 Nw. U. L. Rev. 155 (2018). The abs …Posted: September 10, 2018