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Washington State
Institute for
Public Policy
110 Fifth Avenue Southeast, Suite 214 y PO Box 40999 y Olympia, WA 98504-0999 y (360) 586-2677 y FAX (360) 586-2793 y www.wsipp.wa.gov

March 2005

INVOLUNTARY COMMITMENT OF SEXUALLY VIOLENT PREDATORS:
COMPARING STATE LAWS
In 1990, the Washington State Legislature passed
a new form of involuntary commitment for sex
offenders identified as “sexually violent predators”
(SVPs). This law permits the state to retain
custody of individuals found by a judge or jury to
pose risks for reoffending. Since Washington’s
enactment, 16 other states have adopted similar
laws. Texas requires outpatient treatment rather
than confinement; Pennsylvania law pertains only
to 20-year-olds “aging out” of the juvenile system.
This paper summarizes key features of the SVP
laws, focusing on three questions:

SUMMARY
Seventeen states have laws that authorize
confinement of sex offenders identified as
“sexually violent predators.” This paper focuses
on three questions:

Number of Persons Held Under SVP Laws
As of December 2004, 3,493 persons have
been held for evaluation as an SVP or
committed for treatment.

•

How many individuals have been held under
these laws?

Number of Persons Released Under Some
Form of Less Restrictive Alternative

•

How many have been released under some
form of less restrictive alternative?

As of December 2004, 427 persons were
discharged or released.

•

What are the program costs?
SVP Program Costs

STATE COMPARISONS
Although state laws for SVPs have common
elements, the organizational structure and facility
operations in each state vary greatly. As such,
making comparisons is not easy. Key differences
include:
•

Breadth of the Law. Some states have
restricted the SVP laws to a narrow group of
sex offenders, whereas other states’ laws
apply to a larger pool. For states with a
broader pool of eligible offenders, for example
Arizona, it is not surprising to see
proportionally higher numbers of persons both
held under the law and discharged/released.

•

Release/Discharge Decision. Some states
require a judge/jury to authorize release; in
others, the decision is made at an
administrative level.

It is difficult to directly compare reported costs
for state SVP programs. The service delivery
models vary across states. Frequently, budget
figures are spread across multiple parts of state
government and not pro-rated to capture the
SVP program portions.
•

The cost of operating secure facilities for
committed SVPs in the United States is at
least $224 million annually.

•

States with small numbers of program
residents will naturally have higher costs
per resident.

A comprehensive comparison of costs
would necessitate structured interviews with
state staff who have sufficient time to
dedicate to the task. At a minimum, cost
categories would need to be aligned in the
following areas:

Table 1 provides information on the state
laws and numbers of individuals held since
the law went into effect, released, and
revoked. We use the term “held since the
law went into effect” rather than
“committed,” because it provides a more
accurate reflection of the scope of the law’s
application. In many states, individuals are
sent to the treatment facility for evaluation
and may choose to wait some time before
proceeding with the commitment hearing.

•

Treatment

•

Security and supervision

•

Direct care (such as food, clothing,
supplies)

•

Healthcare

COSTS OF SVP LAWS

•

Contracted services

The full costs of an SVP law are typically
spread across a state’s budget.

•

Legal services

•

Psychological evaluation

For this document, we requested staff to
report the estimated costs for housing,
supervision, and treatment. Legal costs,
risk screening, and conditional release costs
were not to be included to facilitate
comparison across states. For some states,
this cost separation was feasible; for others,
budget categories overlapped and it was
difficult. Consequently, we concluded that
these cost comparisons are likely to have
hidden flaws and should not be taken at
face value.

•

Transportation

•

Administrative overhead

•

Capital costs and/or debt service

Table 2 (page 6) reports on cost information
by state. Two conclusions emerged:

2

•

The cost of operating secure facilities for
committed SVPs in the United States is
at least $224 million annually.

•

States with small numbers of program
residents will naturally have higher costs
per resident.

Table 1

INVOLUNTARY CIVIL COMMITMENT OF
SEXUALLY VIOLENT PREDATORS: STATE-BY-STATE COMPARISON
Program Descriptions and Commitment Data
STATE CODE
(YEAR LAW
EFFECTIVE)
Arizona
ARS 36-3774 et
seq.
(1996)

California
WIC 6600 et seq.
(1996)

Florida
SVP law was
relocated to
ss394.910394.931, Part V,
Florida Statutes, in
1999

Illinois
725 ILCS 207/1 et
seq.
(1998)

Iowa
229.A1 et seq.
(1998)

Kansas
59-29a01 et seq.
(1994)

TREATMENT
FOLLOWING
COMMITMENT

Placed in custody of the
Department of Health
Services. If
appropriate, a judge
may grant conditional
release to a less
restrictive alternative.
First four phases are
inpatient. Fifth phase is
during conditional
release. Treatment
duration is competencybased, not time limited.

Secure residentialphased program. Final
phase, transition,
determined by courts.

Least restrictive
manner appropriate.
Judge has discretion to
order institutional care
or conditional release
with necessary
treatment services.

Secure, long term, and
highly structured fivephase program.
Committed to Social
and Rehabilitation
Services for placement
in secure facility. Right
to petition for discharge
at annual review.

NUMBER
HELD SINCE
LAW WENT
INTO EFFECT*

NUMBER
DISCHARGED
RELEASED

NUMBER
REVOKED
SINCE
RELEASE

Department of
Health Services,
Arizona Community
Protection and
Treatment Center

332

221

7

Department of
Mental Health,
Atascadero State
Hospital (moving to
Coalinga State
Hospital). Contracts
with Liberty
Behavioral Health
Corporation for
Community
Aftercare Program.
Department of
Children and
Families, Florida
Civil Commitment
Center on grounds
of Desoto
Correctional
Institution.
Contracts with
Liberty Behavioral
Health Corporation.
Department of
Human Services,
Treatment and
Detention Facility.
Contracts with
Liberty Behavioral
Health Corporation
for some treatment
staff.
Department of
Human Services

495

67

Not
Available

662

11

2

228

15

3

42

0

0

Department of
Social and
Rehabilitation
Services, Sexual
Predator Treatment
Program, Larned
State Hospital

129

18

14

TREATMENT
PROVIDER

3

OR

STATE CODE
(YEAR LAW
EFFECTIVE)
Massachusetts
Part I Title XVII,
Chap. 123A 1 et
seq.
(1998)

Minnesota
253B.185 et seq.
(1994)

Missouri
632.480 et seq.
(1999)

New Jersey
30:4-27.24 et seq.
(1994)

North Dakota
25.03-3.01 et seq.
(1997)

Pennsylvania
SB421
(2003)

South Carolina
44-48-10 et seq.
(1998)

TREATMENT
FOLLOWING
COMMITMENT

Committed to a secure
treatment center. May
apply for community
access program.

Least restrictive
treatment program that
can meet the SVP's
and society's needs.
Secure phased
program.
Committed to custody
in a secure facility until
the SVP is safe to be at
large. Right to petition
for release at annual
review.
Involuntary commitment
to secure facility.
Department can
recommend conditional
discharge if likely to
comply with treatment
plan, but the order is at
the court’s discretion.
Committed to the
custody of Department.
Director assigns the
least restrictive
treatment facility or
program necessary.
For 20-year-olds who
are “aging out” of the
juvenile system who
are found to pose a
high risk of reoffending.
Committed to a facility
designated by the
Department.

Committed to the
custody of the
Department of Mental
Health at an inpatient
secure facility. Right to
petition for release at
annual review.

TREATMENT
PROVIDER

NUMBER
HELD SINCE
LAW WENT
INTO EFFECT*

NUMBER

RELEASED

NUMBER
REVOKED
SINCE
RELEASE

DISCHARGED
OR

Department of
Corrections;
Treatment Center for
Sexually Dangerous
Persons at
Bridgewater State
Hospital
Department of
Human Services

306

4

0

235

1

1

Department of
Mental Health with
security costs
shared by the
Department of
Corrections
Department of
Human Services.
Department of
Corrections operates
a temporary facility
at the Northern
Regional Unit
(Kearny).
Department of
Human Services

82

6

0

311

0

0

28

0

0

4

Not
Available

Not
Available

86

15

0

Department of
Public Welfare.
Southwest Secure
Treatment Unit at
Torrance State
Hospital. Contracts
with Liberty
Behavioral Health
Corporation for
Executive Director.
Department of
Mental Health,
Behavioral Disorders
Treatment Program

4

STATE CODE
(YEAR LAW
EFFECTIVE)
Texas
Health and Safety
Code 841.001 et
seq.
(1999)

Virginia
37.1-70 et seq.
(2004)

Washington
71.09.010 et seq.
(1990)

Wisconsin
980.01 et seq.
(1994)

TREATMENT
FOLLOWING
COMMITMENT

Outpatient group twice
per week, individual
twice per month;
treatment begins upon
release from prison;
entitled to a biennial
review; entitled to file
unauthorized petition
for release.
Committed to the
custody of the
Commissioner of the
Department of Mental
Health, Mental
Retardation and
Substance Abuse
Services. Residents
have an annual review
before the court in the
committing jurisdiction
for the first five years;
every two years
thereafter.
Detained at secure
facility for evaluation
and treatment. Right to
petition for less
restrictive alternative or
SVP status at any time.
Transition release
facilities available
(phase 6).
Institutional care at a
secure mental health
facility. Person may
petition for supervised
release 18 months after
initial commitment.

TREATMENT
PROVIDER

NUMBER
HELD SINCE
LAW WENT
INTO EFFECT*

NUMBER

RELEASED

NUMBER
REVOKED
SINCE
RELEASE

DISCHARGED
OR

Outpatient treatment
managed by Council
on Sex Offender
Treatment;
administered by
Department of
Human Services
(direct services are
contracted)
Department of
Mental Health,
Mental Retardation
and Substance
Abuse Services,
Virginia Center for
Behavioral
Rehabilitation

41

Not
Applicable

Not
Applicable

10

0

0

Department of
Social and Health
Services, Special
Commitment Center
and Transitional
Facilities

220

13

1

Department of
Health and Family
Services, Sand
Ridge Secure
Treatment Center

282

56

16

3,493

427

44

Total
* Projected through December 31, 2004.

5

Table 2

INVOLUNTARY CIVIL COMMITMENT OF
SEXUALLY VIOLENT PREDATORS: STATE-BY-STATE COMPARISON
Program Costs as Reported by States*

STATE

COST PER DAY
PER CLIENT

COST PER YEAR
PER CLIENT

ANNUAL SALARY
AND BENEFITS OF
TREATMENT
OFFICER

PROJECTED
TOTAL ANNUAL
PROGRAM COST
(IN MILLIONS)

Arizona

$220.00

$80,300

$37,360

$9.7

California

$293.00

$107,000

$56,492

$45.5

Florida

$137.00

$50,005

$39,176

$21.5

Illinois

$227.40

$83,000

$45,000

$19.0

Iowa

$182.07

$66,456

$55,500

$2.5

Kansas

$145.41

$53,075

$26,977

$6.6

Massachusetts

$136.99

$50,000

$50,000

$15.1

Minnesota

$314.00

$109,000

$47,000

$19.3

Missouri

$168.00

$61,320

$33,178

$6.8

New Jersey

$164.04

$59,939

$50,000

$16.7

North Dakota

$267.89

$97,780

$35,014

$3.2

Pennsylvania

Not
Available**

Not
Available**

Not
Available**

$2.5

$34.74

$12,680

$18,922

$1.2

$20.83

$31,000

$6,000 – 7,000

$0.5

Virginia

$220.00

$80,000

$125,000

$6.0

Washington

$289.00

$105,665

$104,026

$23.3

Wisconsin

$273.97

$100,000

$53,353

$24.7

(juveniles only)

South Carolina
Texas
(outpatient)

* Cost figures represent states’ reports and are not adjusted to take account of significant differences among states.
** Not applicable due to small enrollment.

6

APPENDIX A: OTHER SURVEYS

During the preparation of this report, we learned about other efforts to compare state SVP
programs. These include:
(1) Kansas: Survey of Sexual Predator Treatment Program Issues, Kansas Social and
Rehabilitation Services, July 2004. This is a work in progress. As of early October 2004,
only five states fully responded to the survey. It is a several page Word document and asks
for detailed information regarding client demographics, program descriptions and costs by
budget category. The contact person for this survey is Lizz Phelps, J.D, SRS/Health Care
Policy, Lmp@srskansas.org, (785) 296-4552.
(2) Maryland: Fitch, W. L. 2003. “Sexual Offender Commitment in the United States:
Legislative and Policy Concerns.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 989:
489-501. This article presents the results of (including cost data from): W.L. Fitch and D.
Hammen. 2002. Sex Offender Commitment: A Survey of the States. Unpublished
Manuscript. A summer 2004 update of data is planned. The contact person for this
survey Larry Fitch, fitchl@dhmh.state.md.us/.
(3) Texas: State-by-state comparison of the involuntary civil commitment of sexually violent
predators, August 2003. The data pertaining to Texas were updated in a June 2004
version conducted by the Texas Council on Sex Offender Treatment (CSOT).

7

APPENDIX B: CONTACTS

STATE

NAME

PHONE

EMAIL

Arizona

Dr. Noggle (primary)

(602) 220-6191

dnoggle@azdhs.gov

California

Steve Ickes

sickes@adc.state.az.us

Jay Hershey

Jhershe@adc.state.az.us

Michelle Lawson

mlawson@dmhhq.state.ca.us

Dan Carson (backup)

dan.carson@lao.ca.gov

Florida

Gregory Venz

Illinois

Timothy Budz

(815) 740-8781 x202

DHS4103@dhs.state.il.us

Iowa

Jason Smith

(712) 225-6948

Jsmith4@dhs.state.ia.us

Kansas

Austin DesLauriers

(620) 285-2131

ATD0427@srskansas.org

Lizz Phelps (KS Survey Contact)

(785) 296-4552

LMP@srskansas.org

Massachusetts

Pat Lesperance

(508) 422-3367

Palesperance@doc.state.ma.us

Minnesota

Thomas Ruter (primary)

Thomas.Ruter@state.mn.us

Lynn Glancey

lynn.glancey@state.mn.us

Alan Blake

alan.blake@dmh.mo.gov

Missouri

Gregory_Venz@dcf.state.fl.us

Marty Bellew-Smith
New Jersey

Kathleen Guth

(732) 499-5534

Kathleen.guth@dsh.state.nj.us

North Dakota

Alex Schweitzer

(701) 253-3964

aschweit@state.nd.us

Pennsylvania

Diane Dombach, Sexual Offenders
Assessment Board

(717) 787-5430

South Carolina

Brenda Young-Rice

(803) 896-2924

BEY23@dmh.state.sc.us

Cathy Garner

(803) 935-5540

cbg44@dmh.state.sc.us

Texas

Lisa Worry, Program Administrator

(512) 834-4529

lisa.worry@dshs.state.tx.us

Virginia

Mario Dennis (primary)

(804) 524-4685

mario.dennis@vcbr.dmhmrsas.virginia.gov

Linda Jones, Executive Assistant

(804) 524-4691

Washington

Linda Egge (primary)
Kim Acker

EggeLD@dshs.wa.gov
(360) 664-9001

Kathy Zimmerman
Wisconsin

Steven Watters (primary)
Susan Huss

Kmacker@doc1.wa.gov
ZimmerKA@dshs.wa.gov

(608) 847-1720

WATTESJ@dhfs.state.wi.us
hussl@dhfs.state.wi.us

For additional information, please contact Roxanne Lieb at (360) 586-2768 or liebr@wsipp.wa.gov.

The Institute wishes to thank Kathleen Gookin, an Olympia-based consultant, who conducted the
survey of states.
Document No. 05-03-1101

Washington State
Institute for Public Policy
The Washington 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
8 Institute and guides the development 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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