Council on Sex Offender Treatment Civil Commitment of the Sexually Violent Predator - History of Civil SVP Act

In 1983, the Texas Legislature created the Council on Sex Offender Treatment due to the rising rate of sexual crimes and extremely high recidivism rates of untreated sex offenders.

In 1995 Representatives Greenburg, Hochberg, and Danburg first introduced legislation regarding sexually violent predators. House Bill 595 was referred to the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee were the legislation died.

In 1997, Texas again considered legislation regarding the civil commitment of sexually violent predators. Senator Shapiro and Senator Whitmire authored Senate Bill 77 and Representative Greenberg authored the companion House Bill (3468). The original vision for civilly committed SVPs was to follow the rest of the nation in housing SVPs in an inpatient secure facility. However, due to lack of appropriations and constitutional concerns both bills died in committee. Texas Legislators had to look for a viable alternative to inpatient treatment.

In October 1998, the Council began to develop a briefing or background information packet for the legislature to consider with regard to their task of establishing a civil commitment program for sexually violent predators in Texas. The Council recommended a mental health model following the guidelines used for outpatient or inpatient civil commitment in the state mental health programs. The Council endorsed establishing a treatment program that is based in the humane philosophy that rehabilitation was definitely possible and that continued intensive treatment was critical for rehabilitation. Against a civil commitment program were those who felt it was using psychiatry and psychology for the purposes of criminal punishment. Also against the program was a strong mental health lobby that stated that sex offender treatment in the mental health system would impinge on the funds available for mental health treatment of others.

In addition, there was no body of research at that time that supported the prediction of the most dangerous persons, those who would re-offend, or those who would respond to treatment. (Meyer, Molett, Richards, Arnold 2003) Inpatient civil commitment would require a tremendous investment of money regarding treatment providers, security staff, administrative staff, and facilities. It was estimated that 6.2 million dollars would be needed to build a special commitment center. The cost of housing each SVP was estimated at $80,000.00 to $100,000.00 dollars per year.

In 1999, Senator Florence Shapiro introduced Senate Bill 29. The bill defined that some convicted sex offenders should be described as sexual predators who suffer from a personality disorder or other mental abnormality. Many of these sex offenders will complete their term of incarceration. Upon their release they represent a significant threat to others because of their likelihood to engage in acts of sexual violence. Civil Commitment implies a human philosophy that rehabilitation of even the most heinous offenders is possible.

On September 1, 1999, the Governor signed Senate Bill 365, which established the first outpatient civil commitment program in the United States and the Council began implementation and administration of the Civil Commitment Program for the Sexually Violent Predators. The Outpatient Program was chosen strictly due to fiscal constraints. Inpatient civil commitment would require a tremendous investment of money regarding treatment providers, security staff, administrative staff, and facilities.

September 1, 2005, Senate Bill 912 by Florence Shapiro amended Health & Safety Code, Chapter 841 to include sexually motivated murder and statutorily mandated the Council to research ways in which sexually violent predators and other persons who commit sexually violent offenses use the internet to meet or otherwise establish contact with potential victims.

Last updated April 5, 2010