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Factors associated with the civil commitment of sex offenders: A comparison between four states

Julia Elizabeth McLawsen, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Although sex offender civil commitment statutes vary from state to state, they share a similar set of eligibility criteria (Jackson & Hess, 2007; Jackson, Rogers, & Shuman, 2004; Janus, 2000). However, a comparison of recent publications describing states' civilly committed sex offender population characteristics reveals remarkable differences between these populations. This study examines recidivism risk and diagnostic profiles of sex offenders who undergo mental health board hearings for possible detention under one of Nebraska's two civil commitment laws. Results suggest that sex offenders pose similar recidivism risk levels regardless of mental health board disposition (inpatient commitment, outpatient commitment, or no commitment at all). Additionally, results demonstrate that sex offenders committed under either Nebraska statute display equivalent levels of recidivism risk and similar diagnostic profiles. Finally, results reveal that sex offenders committed to inpatient settings in Nebraska, regardless of what statute they were committed under, are substantially lower risk than analogous groups in other states, and more likely to be diagnosed with pedophilia. Considering that all groups exhibited similar levels of risk, regardless of commitment statute and outcome, and that least restrictive alternatives were rarely utilized, findings raise questions about whether sex offender civil commitment in Nebraska most effectively allocates the state's limited resources to protect the community from sexual recidivism. ^

Subject Area

Law|Psychology, Clinical|Sociology, Criminology and Penology|Sociology, Public and Social Welfare

Recommended Citation

McLawsen, Julia Elizabeth, "Factors associated with the civil commitment of sex offenders: A comparison between four states" (2010). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3404022.