The Function of Punishment in the 'Civil' Commitment of Sexually Violent Predators

Behavioral Sciences & the Law, Vol. 25, pp. 437-448, 2007

12 Pages Posted: 30 Sep 2008 Last revised: 16 Jun 2010

Kevin M. Carlsmith

Colgate University - Psychology Department

John Monahan

University of Virginia School of Law

Alison Evans

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: September 5, 2008

Abstract

Two experiments find that support for civil commitment procedures for sexually violent predators is based primarily upon the retributive rather than incapacitative goals of respondents. Two discrete samples composed of students (N = 175) and jury-eligible citizens (N = 200) completed experimental surveys assessing their support or opposition to scenarios in which a sexual predator was to be released after completing his criminal sentence. Respondents were sensitive to likelihood of recidivism only when the initial sentence was sufficiently punitive. When initial sentence was lenient, respondents strongly supported civil commitment without regard to future risk. Results are discussed in light of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Kansas v. Hendricks (1997) on the constitutionality of civil commitment laws for sexually violent predators.

Keywords: civil commitment, retribution, retributive justice, incapacitation, punishment motives

Suggested Citation

Carlsmith, Kevin M. and Monahan, John and Evans, Alison, The Function of Punishment in the 'Civil' Commitment of Sexually Violent Predators (September 5, 2008). Behavioral Sciences & the Law, Vol. 25, pp. 437-448, 2007. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1264088

Kevin M. Carlsmith (Contact Author)

Colgate University - Psychology Department ( email )

13 Oak Drive
Hamilton, NY 13346
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.colgate.edu/DesktopDefault1.aspx?tabid=684&pgID=3400&vID=3&dID=0&fID=4213

John Monahan

University of Virginia School of Law ( email )

580 Massie Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States
434-924-3632 (Phone)

Alison Evans

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

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