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Sexual Predators

Civil Commitment And The Criminal Law, Sexual Psychopath Laws, Second Generation Sex Offender Commitment Laws

This entry addresses laws for the civil commitment of sexually dangerous persons. Beginning in the 1930s, many states expanded the traditional reach of civil commitment to include "sexual psychopaths." By the 1970s these psychopath laws were judged to be a failed experiment. In the 1990s, social forces combined to produce a suite of innovative approaches to sexual violence, including a second generation of sex offender commitment laws. Often born in the white-hot light of public outrage over heinous crime, these laws have been dubbed sexual predator commitments.

This entry begins by situating sex offender commitments in the legal landscape governing the deprivation of liberty. It sketches the rise and fall of the sexual psychopath laws, and then discusses the social forces that led to the resurrection of civil commitment as a tool to address sexual violence. The entry also describes the operation of commitment laws. It then addresses the constitutional controversy concerning these laws, and concludes with a discussion of the critiques of these laws as a tool in the fight against sexual violence.

ERIC S. JANUS

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal Law