The first modern “sexually violent predator” law was implemented in 1990 by Washington state. A total of 20 states and the federal government created similar laws between 1990 and 2007. However, the current model of “sex offender civil commitment” is actually a re-incarnation of an earlier system widely used in the 30s, 40s, and 50s known as sexual psychopath statutes.
While there are key differences between our current SVP laws and their mid-century precursors, there is hope to be taken from the slow demise of those earlier sexual psychopath laws amidst a broader de-institutionalization movement during the 60s and 70s and with the support of psychiatrists who vocally opposed the involuntary commitment of a population that was marginalized but not mentally ill.
Unlike the notoriously ubiquitous spread of registration and notification laws targeting persons convicted of (or adjudicated for) a sex-related crime, most states have chosen not to adopt so-called “sex offender civil commitment” laws. Theses state systems are all virtual carbon copies of one another, which makes them similarly problematic and vulnerable. We welcome anyone interested in any of these 21 separate systems. We are forging our early advocacy efforts on Virginia, but our project will expand to launch more state campaigns as more people join the fight and our advocacy capacity grows.