If you had to nominate only one sex crime policy for national implementation, which one would you select, and why?

Criminal Justice

If you had to nominate only one sex crime policy for national implementation, which one would you select, and why?

I would nominate the civil commitment policy. According to Mancini (2014, p. 128) civil commitment’s objective is to “…incapacitate sex offenders beyond the length of their original sentence”. Further Mancini (2014) notes that current statistics suggest that about 16% of states have some form of civil commitment reserved specifically for sex offenders. There has been a great variability in civil commitment not only in its design but existence. As Mancini (2014) exemplifies, some states such as California had civil commitment for sex offenders even before the 1990s while some other states are just warming up to the idea now. Evidently, civil commitment has not been extensively implemented across the different states.

First, my choice of civil commitment is that based on the deficiencies in its theoretical basis, there is a chance that if improved it would be an effective tool for countering recidivism. In chapter 9, Mancini went in depth on the logical flaws of civil commitment – alongside other sex crime policies. The causal logic of sex crimes, argued that a main problem with civil commitment is that it was based on error-prone data and it posed the risk of individuals being categorized as “high-risk” despite lack of solid evidence. This is similarly reflected in a letter by New York Civil Liberties Union to the governor noting the disparities in implementation of civil commitment where a majority of level 3 offenders that were convicted were black men – without prior sex crime histories that even put then on sex offender registries.

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These deficiencies in civil commitment could be solved by using more accurate data that is both static and dynamic in nature. The idea would be to make predictions more accurate. Even more important would be to standardize the medical examination that categorizes offenders as mentally ill.

Beyond the flaws, a significant advantage of civil commitment is that it offers a chance to either ‘rehabilitate’ of ‘incapacitate’ offenders that have been released and are seen as a high risk of recidivism. The rehabilitative model particularly serves to put the offender on a better path of recovery still with the ability to have the community at ease (safety reasons) and adhere to legal guidelines. It is also a more pleasant measure compared to other extremities such as castration. Notably, a state like Jersey will either place sex offenders under full civil commitment at the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Centre or offer them incarceration with the larger prison population or release them on community probation. Current accounts suggest that treatment (rehabilitation) within civil commitment works. A study of 43 sex offenders by Mercado et. al., (2011) found that recidivism rates among those who underwent civil commitment were at 12.3% compared to the 16.8% rate for those who did not complete the treatment.


New York Civil Liberties Union. 2020. Legislative Memo: Letter To Gov. Spitzer: Civil Commitment Of Sex Offenders. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 3 November 2020].

Mercado, C. C., Jeglic, E., Markus, K., Hanson, R. K., & Levenson, J. (2011). Sex offender management, treatment, and civil commitment: An evidence based analysis aimed at reducing sexual violence. US Department of Justice, 1, 2-81.

Mancini, C. (2014). Sex crime, offenders, and society: A critical look at sexual offending and policy. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press.

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