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Williams Institute report : Over 6,000 people are civilly committed in the US

[ – 10/2020]

Black men and men with male victims are more likely to be committed

Twenty states, the federal government, and D.C. have laws that allow for the indefinite detention of sex offenders designated as a “Sexually Violent Person” or “Sexually Violent Predator” (SVP) beyond the term of their incarceration. This report explores the implications civil commitment laws have for Black and sexual minority communities.

In the 1990s and 2000s, federal lawmakers and legislators in 20 states and the District of Columbia passed laws that allow for the detention of certain sex offenders designated as a “Sexually Violent Person” or, in some states, as a “Sexually Violent Predator” (SVP). These statutes allow for the confinement of individuals convicted of certain sexual offenses beyond the term of their criminal court-ordered incarceration (in juvenile detention, jail, or prison).1

This report explores the important implications SVP laws have for Black and sexual minority communities. We begin by providing an overview and historical context of SVP laws. We then use empirical evidence garnered from states where data could be gathered through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests or through collecting data available to the public on the internet. Using these data we (a) estimate the total population of civilly committed sex offenders in the United States, (b) assess disparities in administration of SVP detentions by looking at rates of civil commitment detention for Black and Hispanic versus White sexual offenders, and (c) assess disparities by victim’s sex to assess sexuality-related disparities in civil detentions.

The data analyzed in this report suggests:

Thousands of people are in civil commitment in the United States. There are over 6,300 people detained in the 20 state and federal civil commitment programs.

In most states, Black men were vastly overrepresented among the population of civilly committed persons. Based on data from 13 states with reliable data, Black residents faced a rate of SVP detention more than twice that of White residents: 7.72 per 100,000 Black residents as compared with 3.11 per 100,000 White residents aged sixteen or older.

Sexual minority men are disproportionately detained in sex offense civil commitment facilities. In the two states with reliable data about the sex of the victim, New York and Texas, men who had victims who were male were 2 to 3 times as likely to be civilly committed than men with only female victims. This trend was consistent for Black men, White men, and Hispanic men. These patterns suggest that gay/bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM) are seen as more violent, more dangerous or mentally ill, and more deserving commitment under SVP statutes as compared with heterosexuals.

Read more and download the report


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I have a general dislike for reports like this one. They leave out all the numbers except the ones they want to show to make the desired point. BLM is great at that. Women’s rights groups also do it almost to perfection. For me, first time I had contact with police over a crime – straight to prison – life destroyed. Folk tell me that whites have to be arrested multiple times before they actually do any time. Untrue. It is based more on money than race. I didn’t have any so I had a public defender. We know how… Read more »

AMERICA “land of the free home of the brave” For some reason I dont think their referring to BLACKS MEXICANS or ASIANS when they say this and I assume the brave part comes from all those NATIVE AMERICANS they killd with diseases/smallpox and guns. The funny thing about America is this country was built on rape murder child molestation human trafficking and free labor and Americans participated in this sick behavior for over 400 years and got really rich off of it how do you think this country became a superpower so fast. When slavery ended the U.S government never… Read more »

I’m thankful that research papers keep coming out on Civil commitment but this one is skewed to show disparities for gay/lesbian/LGBTQ, which is great but I wish the paper outright said these gulags do not work and are unconstitutional…lives are unjustly detained and destroyed

This piece points out the general public abhorrence of male on male interpersonal interaction as deviant. That was last constitutionally argued in Lawrence V Texas. Add the age difference issue and public perceptions of ” sexual deviance” and ” sexual volence” collide. Add the errant majority of public perception that young black males are, or tend to be more violent than counterparts by birth alone and we see the direct results of a poster child for the invocation of increased punishment. Naturally the people demanded it, yet ignore the societal norms that reared them. Naturally demoralised then the public shaming… Read more »

I believe that this SVP law should be eliminated based on cost to maintain a resident, and that there is no proof that any treatment has worked. In this day and age with the Covid Virus going on and all the states are stating they need money because on their budget, it only makes sense to me is to get rid of this unfair law. Lets take a look at the cost to maintain 6000 SVP Residents. The average cost per year is $175,000 per resident. Times 6000 residents with in the nation at a cost of a $175,000. per… Read more »

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