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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


Join the discussion

  1. My say

    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 that goes.

  2. AERO1

    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 intended on letting slaves go free they just changed their classification from slave’s to convicts.
    It’s so obvious the America governments final plan is life time incarceration for SVP’S they allready believe sexofenders can’t be rehabilitated and with the help of the meda and enuff public out cry this could easily happen and that would mean life time free labor for the government $$$$$$

    Good luck

  3. totally against public registry

    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

  4. Tim in WI

    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 used to justify it are a direct reflection upon social evolution or more directly an indictment of leadership past. I have diligently posted upon this blog pointing out the pretentiousness in the Decision in Alaska v Doe ex post cause and lamenting the Catholic justices’ block vote in that case. I had no choice but to accept Connecticut D.P.S. v Doe as sound, primarily because a waiver of right was entered into the record for ALL “similarly situated” individuals, thus the 9-0. The law in Kansas v Hendricks was enacted in my state two years into my five year indeterminate term\ sentence from 91-2. Naturally DOC used that law to manipulate those already convicted of crimes. Doc called it “a new legal avenue” for civil action and highlighted it potential use tor those under “institutional care.” But speaking of institutions i came across this historical mention that isn’t getting the media attention it deserves in this context

    Get your popcorn.

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