Council on Sex Offender Treatment Civil Commitment of the Sexually Violent Predator - Inpatient vs. Outpatient SVP Civil Commitment


Across the nation states are dealing with sexually violent predators in an increasingly conservative manner by committing the SVP to inpatient treatment. The implementation of the outpatient civil commitment program in Texas is the first innovative type of civil commitment in the United States. The outpatient sexually violent predator program may appear to be a precarious endeavor to States who have committed millions of dollars to inpatient programs. The belief being these SVPs could not be contained and reside in communities without committing a new offense. However, to date the Texas outpatient program has shown the most success in the treatment of SVPs while maintaining the highest-level of community safety.

There are a few similarities between Texas and other states civil commitment programs. First, sex offenders are assessed by the state and only the most predatory are referred to trial for civil commitment. Second, a trial is conducted and if the sexually violent predator is committed by judicial order, the SVPs remain in the outpatient program until their behavioral abnormality as changed to the extend that the SVP is no longer likely to engage in predator acts of sexual violence (Ferrara 2000).

There is a significant difference between the Texas program and programs in other states. In other states, the civilly committed sex offender is placed in a locked, secure residential facility and can choose not to participate in sex offender treatment. In Texas, the civilly committed SVPs are allowed to transition back into the community where they are mandated to actively participate and comply with intensive outpatient sex offender treatment and supervision.

Sexually violent predators are civilly committed to protect the citizens of Texas and a paradoxical effect is that the outpatient program may do more to ensure public safety. Consider some of the inherent benefits that an outpatient sex offender treatment program has over a residential sex offender treatment program.

The success rate for offenders treated in an inpatient setting is about half of that for offenders treated in an outpatient setting. The success rate for offenders treated in an inpatient setting is about half of that for offenders treated in an outpatient setting. Consider the following percentages of treatment refusers: California’s 368 SVPs (80% refuse treatment), Wisconsin’s 232 SVPs (75% refuse treatment), and Florida 450 SVPs (70% refuse treatment). David Cuppenheimer, the Director of the Sex Offender Treatment Program at MCI-Norfolk reported that attorney’s routinely advise their clients to refuse treatment and avoid disclosure, which inhibits treatment. The prognosis for rehabilitating sexually violent predators in a prison setting is poor, the treatment needs of this population are very long term and the treatment for this population are very different than traditional treatment modalities. Therefore a civil commitment procedure for the long-term care and treatment of the sexually violent predator is found to be necessary by this legislature (Kan.Stat.Ann 59-29a01 1997). Use of an outpatient program, in which treatment is mandated in Texas, can potentially provide for more long-term community safety than inpatient programs.

Treatment progress made in an inpatient setting does not readily transfer to the community because the client does not have to develop internal controls (i.e. identifying triggers and deviant behaviors to stop these prior to the act) due to the intensive external controls (i.e. locked facility, security, etc) in place. Inpatient clients do not have to contend with the “normal” stresses of the free world, the availability of alcohol or drugs, and the inadvertent contact with potential victims. Clients that do choose to participate in the inpatient treatment setting still have the obstacle of applying this in the community. Eventually, these sex offenders will be released back to the community and other states must confront the issues that Texas deals with directly throughout the offender’s treatment.

The outpatient program also has the advantages of maintaining the highest level of protection available to the community while protecting the civil rights of the client through a restrictive transition and assimilation back into the community.

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Last updated April 05, 2010
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    Council on Sex Offender Treatment