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Wsipp Sexually Violent Predator Not Civilly Committed 2007

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Washington State
Institute for
Public Policy
110 Fifth Avenue Southeast, Suite 214

•

PO Box 40999

•

Olympia, WA 98504-0999 •

(360) 586-2677

•

www.wsipp.wa.gov

June 2007

Six-Year Follow-Up of 135 Released Sex Offenders
Recommended for Commitment Under Washington’s
Sexually Violent Predator Law, Where No Petition Was Filed

Introduction
Washington’s Sexually Violent Predator (SVP)
statute1 permits the involuntary commitment of
persons found by a jury to meet the statutory
definition of a sexually violent predator. In a
previous report, the Institute examined the
recidivism of 89 released sex offenders referred by
the Department of Corrections as meeting the filing
standards for civil commitment petitions, but for
whom no petitions were filed.2 These individuals
were released into the community during the first
six years after the law’s passage (between July
1990 and July 1996).

Summary
Washington’s Sexually Violent Predator (SVP)
statute permits the involuntary commitment of
persons found by a jury to meet the statutory
definition of a sexually violent predator. This
study examines the recidivism of 135 released
sex offenders referred for possible civil
commitment, but for whom no petitions were
filed. A uniform follow-up period of six years was
used.
Findings
•

This report extends the results of the previous
study by adding individuals who were referred by
sources other than the Department of Corrections
(DOC). Also included are all individuals who were
recommended for civil commitment where a
petition was not filed, and who were in the
community from July 1996 through June 1999.
These 46 additional individuals bring the study
total to 135. They represent a very small
percentage of the full population of released sex
offenders.

One-half (50 percent) of the individuals had a
new felony as their most serious new
conviction, with 23 percent subsequently
convicted of new felony sex offenses, and 10
percent convicted of violent (not sex) felony
offenses.

•

Nineteen percent of the group was convicted
of the charge of failure to register as a sex
offender.

•

An identical follow-up period of six-year is used in
this updated study. For comparative purposes, the
current study reports arrest, as well as conviction,
information on new felony sex and violent
offenses, and includes additional data on age and
sex offender treatment participation. (This
information was added in response to requests
from readers of the previous study.)

Ten percent (13 individuals) had at least one
additional referral for civil commitment by the
end of the follow-up period. Eight of these
individuals have been tried and civilly
committed, while an additional offender was
admitted to the Special Commitment Center
and is awaiting trial.

•

Four percent of the group subsequently
received sentences of life without parole
after new convictions in Washington State.

1

RCW 71.09.020
Cheryl Milloy. (2003). Six-year follow-up of released sex
offenders recommended for commitment under
Washington’s sexually violent predator law, where no
petition was filed. Olympia: Washington State Institute for
Public Policy, Document No. 03-12-1101.

2

It is important to note that other changes in the
decision-making process regarding civil
commitment referrals have taken place subsequent
to the time period during which the individuals in
this study were selected. The most prominent are
the participation of prosecutors in the “screening”
process (as part of a subcommittee within the End
of Sentence Review Committee), and the
introduction of the Joint Forensic Unit, which is
composed of a group of expert psychologists who
conduct sexually violent predator risk evaluations.
Since 2002, the decision to refer a case to a
prosecuting agency has taken place at the
subcommittee level, with prosecutor participation,
and, thus, cases that do not appear viable are
screened out at a different point in the process.
This evolution in the referral-making process does
not directly impact this study, as the last individual
was referred in 1999.

Statutory Requirements and Procedures
In Washington, a “sexually violent predator” has
the following definition:
•

A person who has been convicted of a
sexually violent offense or charged with a
crime of sexual violence; and

•

Suffers from a personality disorder or
mental abnormality which is a congenital or
acquired condition affecting the person’s
emotional or volitional capacity and
predisposes the person to commit sexual
acts so that the person is a menace to the
health and safety of others; and

•

The mental abnormality or personality
disorder makes a person, if not confined in
a secure facility, likely to engage in future
predatory acts of sexual violence directed
towards strangers, individuals with whom a
relationship has been established or
promoted for the primary purpose of
victimization, or persons of casual
acquaintance with whom no substantial
personal relationship exists.3

Following a referral, if the Attorney General or
Prosecuting Attorney decides to pursue the case
for civil commitment, then a number of procedural
protections are provided to the offender, including
access to counsel, expert witnesses, and trial by
jury. If the jury or court finds, beyond a reasonable
doubt, that the individual is a sexually violent
predator, then the individual is civilly committed to
the state for the purpose of treating the mental
condition that produced the predatory acts of
sexual violence. The commitment continues until
such time as the committing court or jury
determines the individual is safe to be released to
a less restrictive environment or unconditionally
released to the community.

The multi-disciplinary End of Sentence Review
Committee (ESRC) within the Department of
Corrections was established in 1990 to review
each potential sexually violent predator’s case to
determine whether the individual meets the criteria
for civil commitment. The ESRC is composed of
staff from each state agency that has jurisdiction
over the release of sex offenders, as well as law
enforcement. If the committee determines that an
offender meets the definition of a sexually violent
predator, the committee refers the case to the
Attorney General’s office, or to the King County
Prosecuting Attorney for offenders under its
jurisdiction. The Attorney General or Prosecuting
Attorney then decides whether to file the petition.

Methods
The previous study reported the recidivism rates of
89 released sex offenders. This study includes
those individuals and adds an additional 46 to the
group. Twelve of these individuals are sex
offenders referred by additional sources, including
law enforcement agencies and prosecuting
agencies. The remaining 34 individuals represent
all released sex offenders who were referred for
civil commitment where a petition was not filed
from July 1996 through June 1999. The final study
group contains 135 released sex offenders.

Prior to 1995, only offenders soon to be released
from total confinement were referred. Since 1995,
an offender may also be referred if the person meets
the criminal history criteria and has committed a
“recent overt act,” which is “any act or threat that has
either caused harm of a sexually violent nature or
creates a reasonable apprehension of such harm in
the mind of an objective person who knows of the
history and mental condition of the person engaging
in the act.”4
3

The inclusion of “persons of casual acquaintance” was
added to the statutory definition of “predatory” by the 2001
Legislature (Chapter 12, Laws of 2001, 2nd Sp. Sess.).
4
RCW 71.09.020

2

Follow-up information on new criminal arrests and
convictions was collected from two data sources:
the Institute’s criminal justice database5 and the
National Crime Information Center (NCIC)
Interstate Identification Index reports. Recidivism
is measured by recording all new convictions (with
initial arrest charges for select convictions) both
within and outside the state of Washington. Data
on subsequent civil commitment referrals and their
outcomes were obtained from databases
maintained by the Department of Social and Health
Services, Department of Corrections, Attorney
General’s office, and the King County Prosecutor.
A uniform follow-up period of six years was used
for all 135 individuals. This follow-up period begins
at date of release for incarcerated offenders or
date of referral for individuals referred for recent
overt acts.
Reoffending is examined in this study in several
ways:
•

Recidivism is then examined as the
number who committed different types of
crimes. In this case, a person can be
counted more than once if convicted of
more than one type of crime.

•

The specific felony sex offense arrest and
conviction charges and the states where
the new offenses took place are reported.

•

For those individuals with new violent
felony (not sex) convictions, the charges
are displayed with the original arrest
charges.

Descriptive statistics on sex offender
treatment participation and recidivism, as
well as age and recidivism, are presented.
After the previous report was released in
2003, several inquiries were made to the
Institute regarding age and treatment
participation and how these relate to
recidivism. Because of the interest in these
topics, this information is included in the
present study.

•

Finally, the group members’ status at the end
of the follow-up period is presented. The
specific information includes whether
individuals had a subsequent civil
commitment referral and the outcome of
each referral, as well as whether they had
received sentences of life without parole for
new offenses during the follow-up period.

Subsequent Crimes and Referrals

First, recidivism is defined as an
individual’s most serious offense
committed during the follow-up period.
The categories for this analysis are felony,
misdemeanor, failure to register, and no
new offense. Within these categories, the
offense behavior is further divided into
subcategories: sex, violent, and nonviolent. Failure to register is reported
separately, because it is a release
condition that is unique to the sex offender
population.

•

•

Exhibit 1 presents the recidivism findings by the
most serious new offense (defined as conviction)
committed during the six-year follow-up period. Of
the 135 released sex offenders in this study, 93 (69
percent) were convicted of at least one new offense.
Exhibit 1

Most Serious New Offense
Type of
Offense
Felony
Sex
Violent (not sex)
Violent Total
Non-Violent
Felony Total
Misdemeanor
Sex
Violent (not sex)
Non-Violent
Misdemeanor Total
Failure to Register
Total Recidivism

5

This database was created by merging databases from
the Washington State Administrative Office of the Courts
and the Department of Corrections.

3

Number of
Offenders

Percentage of
Offenders

31
14
45
22
67

23%
10%
33%
16%
50%

3
5
13
21
5
93

2%
4%
10%
16%
4%
69%

Exhibit 3 presents sex offense charges and the
states where these offenses took place for the 31
individuals with new felony sex offense
convictions. This exhibit also displays the specific
arrest charges side-by-side with the conviction
charges for each individual. Twenty-one (68
percent) of the 31 individuals committed offenses
which resulted in felony sex offense convictions in
Washington State, while the remaining 10 were
convicted in other states.

One-half (50 percent) of the individuals had a new
felony as their most serious new conviction. Within
this category, 31 (23 percent) were subsequently
convicted of new felony sex offenses, while 14 (10
percent) were convicted of violent (not sex) felony
offenses. Thus one-third (33 percent) of the group
had at least one new conviction for a violent
(including sex) felony offense.
A misdemeanor offense was the most serious new
conviction for 21 (16 percent) individuals. Five of
the recidivists (4 percent) had a failure to register
as a sex offender charge as their only new
conviction.

The most serious conviction charge for 14 of the
recidivists (45 percent) involved rape, sodomy, or
sexual assault or abuse. Two individuals (6
percent) were convicted of assault 2 with sexual
motivation, while one person (3 percent) was
convicted of unlawful imprisonment with sexual
motivation. Another six individuals (19 percent)
were convicted of indecent liberties, child
molestation, or immoral acts with a child, offenses
which encompass a wide range of hands-on
sexual misconduct with child victims. Eight
individuals (26 percent) were convicted of
communication with a minor for immoral purposes,
sexual exploitation of a minor, or encourage child
sexual abuse/possession of child pornography,
offenses which often involve behavior that is
preliminary to child molestation.

Exhibit 2 displays the number of individuals
convicted of each type of offense during the followup period. Note that these categories are not
mutually exclusive, and that many individuals were
convicted of more than one type of crime. In fact,
when compared with the results from the previous
exhibit, these figures demonstrate the criminal
versatility of the group. Four individuals were
convicted of both felony sex and violent (not sex)
felony offenses. Many of those convicted of new
violent felony offenses also were convicted of new
non-violent felonies as well as misdemeanors. In
addition, 25 (19 percent) were convicted of failure
to register; this was the sole new charge for five of
the individuals.

Thus, 74 percent of the sexual recidivists were
convicted of felony contact crimes such as rape,
indecent liberties, and assault. The remaining
recidivists were convicted of felony offenses that
could be considered precursors to child
molestation.

Exhibit 2

Number Convicted of Each Type of Offense
Type of
Offense
Felony
Sex
Violent (not sex)
Violent Total*
Non-Violent
Felony Total*
Misdemeanor
Sex
Violent (not sex)
Non-Violent
Misdemeanor Total*
Failure to Register

Number of
Offenders

Percentage of
Offenders

31
17
45
30
67

23%
13%
33%
22%
50%

5
20
42
54
25

4%
15%
31%
40%
19%

Using the same offense categories when
examining new arrest charges yields somewhat
different results. In this case, 16 of the 31 felony
sexual recidivists (52 percent) had an offense that
involved rape, sodomy, or sexual assault or abuse
as their most serious arrest charge. One individual
(3 percent) was arrested for assault 2 with sexual
motivation. Nine individuals (29 percent) were
arrested for indecent liberties, child molestation or
immoral acts with a child. The remaining five (16
percent) were arrested for non-contact sexual
offenses.

* These categories are not the sums—they are counts of
unique persons who committed any of the offenses defined
by the category; i.e., when the same person committed
crimes in each category, that person is only counted once
in the “total” category.

Thus, 84 percent of the offenders who were
convicted of new felony sex offenses were actually
arrested for felony sex contact crimes such as
rape, indecent liberties, and assault.

4

Exhibit 3

Types of Offenses for the 31 Individuals With New Felony Sex Offense Convictions

1.

Arrest Charge(s) for Each
Individual
Aggravated Sexual Abuse 2

2.

Indecent Liberties

3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.

Assault 2 w/Sexual
Motivation
Child Molestation 1
Child Molestation 1
Child Molestation 1
Child Molestation 2
Communication w/Minor for
Immoral Purposes

9.

Child Molestation 1

10.

Indecent Liberties

11.
12.

13.

14.
15.
16.
17.
18.
19.
20.
21.
22.
23.
24.
25.
26.
27.
28.
29.
30.
31.

Communication w/Minor for
Immoral Purposes
Communication w/Minor for
Immoral Purposes
Sexual Abuse 1
Sexual Abuse 2
Sexual Abuse 3
Display Child-Sexual
Conduct
Immoral Acts w/Child
Indecent Liberties w/Child
Rape 1
Rape 2
Rape 2
Rape 2
Rape of a Child 1
Rape 3
Rape of a Child 1 x 2
Child Molestation 1
Rape of a Child 1
Rape of a Child 1
Child Molestation 1
Rape of a Child 3
Sexual Assault 1
Sexual Assault of a Child
Sexual Battery
Sexual Exploitation of
Children
Sexual Exploitation of a
Minor
Rape 1 x 2
Sodomy 1 x 4
Kidnapping 2 x 2
Rape 2

Conviction Charge
Aggravated Sexual Abuse 2
Assault 2 w/Sexual
Motivation
Assault 2 w/Sexual
Motivation
Child Molestation 1
Child Molestation 1
Child Molestation 1
Child Molestation 2
Communication w/Minor for
Immoral Purposes
Communication w/Minor for
Immoral Purposes
Communication w/Minor for
Immoral Purposes
Communication w/Minor for
Immoral Purposes
Communication w/Minor for
Immoral Purposes
Encourage Child Sexual
Abuse 2
Possession of Child
Pornography 1

Number of
Conviction
Charges
1

State
Where
Convicted
IL

1

WA

1

WA

3
1
1
3

WA
WA
WA
WA

2

WA

1

WA

1

CA

1

WA

1

WA

2

OR

2

Immoral Acts w/Child
Indecent Liberties w/Child
Rape 1
Rape 2
Rape 2
Rape 2
Rape of a Child 1
Rape 3

1
1
2
1
1
1
1
1

WY
NC
WA
WA
WA

Rape of a Child 1

2

WA

Rape of a Child 1
Rape of a Child 1
Child Molestation 1
Rape of a Child 3
Sexual Assault 1
Sexual Assault of a Child
Sexual Battery
Sexual Exploitation of
Children
Sexual Exploitation of a
Minor

1
1
1
1
1
1
1

WA

3

CA

1

WA

Sodomy 1

2

OR

Unlawful Imprisonment
w/Sexual Motivation

1

WA

5

WA
WA

WA
WA
CO
CO
CA

Exhibit 4 displays arrest as well as conviction
charges and the states where these offenses took
place for the 17 individuals with new violent felony
(not sex) convictions. Most (88 percent) of these
offenses occurred within the state of Washington.

separate felony sex charge, so when arrest charges
rather than conviction charges are examined, there
were 36 individuals who were arrested for felony sex
offenses. These individuals represent 27 percent of
the total group of released sex offenders.

Exhibit 4

Sex Offender Treatment Participation and
Recidivism

Types of Offenses for the Individuals With New
Violent Felony (Not Sex) Convictions
Arrest
Charge
Assault
w/Deadly
Weapon
Assault 2
Assault 2
Rape 2
Assault 2
Robbery 1
Rape of a
Child 2
Murder 1

Robbery

Kidnapping
Rape 1 x 2
Robbery 2
Assault 3
Assault 3
Assault 3
Assault 3
Indecent
Liberties
Felony
Harassment
Felony
Harassment
Kidnapping
Rape 1 x 2
Kidnap 1
Rape 1
Robbery 1
Kidnap 2
Murder 1
Threaten
Crime
w/Intent to
Terrorize

Number of
Conviction
Charges

State
Where
Convicted

1

CA

1

WA

Assault 2

1

WA

Assault 3
Robbery 1
Unlawful
Imprisonment
Assault 3
Unlawful
Imprisonment
Intimidating a
Witness
Assault 3
Assault 3
Attempted
Robbery 1
Assault 3
Assault 3
Assault 3
Assault 3

1
1

1
1
1
1
1

WA
WA
WA
WA

Burglary 1

1

WA

1

WA

Conviction
Charge
Assault
w/Deadly
Weapon
Assault 2

Felony
Harassment
Felony
Harassment
Unlawful
Imprisonment
Kidnap 2

The Washington State Department of Corrections
(DOC) operates a prison-based Sex Offender
Treatment Program (SOTP) at the Twin Rivers
Corrections Center. The program is voluntary, and
offenders who volunteer and are selected enter
treatment when they are within 18 months of release.
According to SOTP records, 44 (33 percent) of this
study’s individuals participated in the program. Of
these participants, 26 (59 percent) completed the
program.

WA

Of those individuals who were convicted of new
felony sex offenses, 29 percent had participated in
SOTP. Of those individuals convicted of new
felony violent (not sex) offenses, 24 percent had
participated in SOTP.

1
1
1

WA

1
1
1

Age and Recidivism
WA

1

The average age of the offenders in this study was
38 years. For the purposes of this discussion,
“age” refers to age at release or, if an individual
was in the community and referred for a recent
overt act, age at the time of the referral.
Exhibit 5 displays the overall age breakdown of
the individuals of this study.
Exhibit 5

WA

Age of Offenders at Time of Release

1
1
WA

Robbery 1
Kidnap 2
Murder 2
Threaten
Crime w/Intent
to Terrorize

1
1
1

WA
WA

1

CA

Age at Release
18 – 24 years
25 – 29 years
30 – 34 years
35 – 39 years
40 – 44 years
45 – 49 years
50 – 54 years
55 – 59 years
60 + years
Total

Of interest is the fact that of the 17 individuals who
had new violent felony (not sex) convictions, six (35
percent) had been originally arrested for felony sex
offenses. One of the six was also convicted on a

Number
of
Offenders
9
19
25
32
23
11
8
4
4
135

Percentage
of
Offenders
7%
14%
19%
24%
17%
8%
6%
3%
3%
101%*

*Total does not add to 100% due to rounding.

6

Exhibit 6

Age of Offenders and New Sex and Violent Felony Convictions
Age
at
Release
18 – 24 years
25 – 29 years
30 – 34 years
35 – 39 years
40 – 44 years
45 – 49 years
50+ years

Number
Convicted of Sex
Felonies
5
6
6
4
7
3
0

Percentage of
Total Offenders
in Age Group
56%
32%
24%
13%
30%
27%
0%

Exhibit 6 shows the age breakdown of the
individuals who were convicted of new sex felony
and violent felony (not sex) offenses.

In addition, six individuals (4 percent) received
sentences of life without parole under the
“persistent offender” statutes within Washington
State. Four of these offenders had been convicted
of new felony sex offenses, while the remaining
two were convicted of new violent (not sex) felony
offenses.

The highest rate of violent felony (excluding sex)
reoffending was in the 30- to 34-year-old
category, followed closely by the 25 to 29 and 35
to 39 age groups. In this case, one individual (13
percent of all offenders in that age category), age
50 years and older, was convicted of a new
violent felony, while no offender in the 18 to 24
age group had such a new conviction during the
six-year follow-up period.

Comparative Recidivism Data
Readers may be interested in knowing how the
findings from this study compare with those from
other sex offender recidivism studies. A 2005 study
conducted by the Institute of the recidivism rates of
Washington State sex offenders demonstrates that
this population of released sex offenders who were
referred for civil commitment is a unique subgroup
with much higher recidivism rates.6

Group Status at End of Follow-Up Period
For 13 (10 percent) of the individuals in this study,
the initial referral for civil commitment was
followed by at least one additional referral by the
end of the six-year follow-up period. The
outcomes of these referrals were as follows:
One case was dismissed.

•

Two were declined by the prosecuting
authorities.

•

One individual was admitted to the
Special Commitment Center and is
awaiting trial.

•

One individual was acquitted and
released.

•

Percentage of
Total Offenders
in Age Group
0%
16%
20%
16%
9%
9%
13%

Thus, eight of the released sex offenders in this
study (6 percent) were re-referred and
subsequently civilly committed within six years of
their initial referral and release.

The highest rate of sexual reoffending was among
the youngest age group. That is, of all released
sex offenders in the study ages 18 to 24, 5 (56
percent) were convicted of new felony sex
offenses. Also note that none of the offenders
ages 50 and over were convicted of new felony
sex offenses during the six-year follow-up period.

•

Number Convicted
of Violent (not sex)
Felonies
0
3
5
5
2
1
1

The Institute analyzed recidivism records of the
4,091 Washington State sex offenders placed in
the community from 1994 to 1998 after release
from prison, jail, or a community supervision
sentence. Recidivism was defined as a conviction
occurring during the first five years after release to
the community. The five-year recidivism rate for
sex felonies was 2.7 percent, while for violent (not
sex) felonies it was 4.0 percent. The overall felony
recidivism rate was 13.0 percent.

6

Robert Barnoski. (2005). Sex offender sentencing in
Washington State: Recidivism rates. Olympia: Washington
State Institute for Public Policy, Document No. 05-08-1203.

Eight were civilly committed.
7

The six-year recidivism rate for sex felonies for
the individuals in the present study was 23
percent; it was 10 percent for violent (not sex)
felonies. The overall felony recidivism rate was
50 percent. Thus, the distinctiveness of the
select subpopulation of sex offenders in the
current study is clearly illustrated by a
comparison of this group’s recidivism rates to
those of an overall population of released
Washington State sex offenders. The offenders
who were referred for possible civil commitment
have a much higher pattern of recidivism than
the full population of released sex offenders.

This report is authored by Cheryl Milloy, Ph.D.,
under contract with the Institute. For further
information, contact Roxanne Lieb at
(360) 586-2768 or liebr@wsipp.wa.gov.

Suggested citation:
Cheryl Milloy. (2007). Six-year follow-up of 135 released
sex offenders recommended for commitment under
Washington’s sexually violent predator law, where no
petition was filed. Olympia: Washington State Institute
for Public Policy, Document No. 07-06-1101.

Conclusions
Of the 135 released sex offenders recommended for
civil commitment where no petition was filed, the sixyear follow-up study revealed:
•

One-half (50 percent) of the subjects had a
new felony as their most serious new
conviction, with 23 percent subsequently
convicted of new felony sex offenses, and 10
percent convicted of violent (not sex) felony
offenses.

•

Nineteen percent of the group was convicted
of the charge of failure to register as a sex
offender.

•

Ten percent (13 individuals) of the subjects
had at least one additional referral for civil
commitment by the end of the follow-up
period. Eight of these individuals have been
tried and civilly committed, while an
additional subject was admitted to the
Special Commitment Center and was
awaiting trial.

•

Four percent of the group subsequently
received sentences of life without parole after
new convictions within Washington State.

Document No. 07-06-1101
Washington State
Institute for
Public Policy
The Washington State Legislature created the Washington State Institute for Public Policy in 1983. A Board of Directors—representing the legislature,
the governor, and public universities—governs the Institute and guides the8development of all activities. The Institute’s mission is to carry out practical
research, at legislative direction, on issues of importance to Washington State.

 

 

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