The Constitutionality of Civil Commitment and the Requirement of Adequate Treatment

Douglas G. Smith

Kirkland & Ellis LLP; Loyola University Chicago School of Law; American Enterprise Institute (AEI)

April 1, 2008

Boston College Law Review, Vol. 49, p. 1383, 2008

This article addresses the constitutional concerns and costs and benefits associated with civil commitment for sexually violent predators. In particular, it focuses on Washington's civil commitment program, the oldest such program in existence in the United States and, indeed, the only program in the nation in which the constitutional parameters of the treatment program have been fully litigated. From the outset, Washington's civil commitment program has been the subject of significant litigation and in large measure that litigation has defined the scope of the constitutional rights of civilly committed individuals to constitutionally adequate treatment. At the same time it has demonstrated many of the problems associated with such programs and provides an important case study in assessing their costs and benefits. The article concludes that, in addition to the potential constitutional concerns regarding civil commitment, the costs of civil commitment appear to outweigh its benefits and that increasing criminal penalties for crimes of sexual violence may be a superior alternative.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 48

Keywords: civil commitment, constitutional rights, cost-benefit analysis, sex offenders, sexually violent predators,

JEL Classification: D61, D81

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Date posted: April 18, 2008 ; Last revised: December 26, 2008

Suggested Citation

Smith, Douglas G., The Constitutionality of Civil Commitment and the Requirement of Adequate Treatment (April 1, 2008). Boston College Law Review, Vol. 49, p. 1383, 2008. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1119390 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1119390

Contact Information

Douglas Geoffrey Smith (Contact Author)
Kirkland & Ellis LLP ( email )
300 North LaSalle
Chicago, IL 60654
312 862 3374 (Phone)
Loyola University Chicago School of Law ( email )
25 E. Pearson
Chicago, IL 60611
United States

American Enterprise Institute (AEI) ( email )
1150 17th Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20036
United States
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