Washington State's unscientific approach to the problem of repeat sex offenders.
A. L. Brody and R. Green,
Bull. Amer. Acad. Psychiatry & the Law
22(3): 343-56, 1994.
In 1990, Washington State enacted the Sexual Predator Act, allowing the civil commitment of sex
offenders to a mental health facility for life if they are deemed to be sexual predators (repeat,
hardcore offenders). They are released only upon proof that they are no longer a threat to others. This
paper reviews the debate about this law and the recent literature on the treatment of sex offenders.
We conclude that the Washington State law is unscientific, because the available treatments are not
adequate to ensure future safety and because the law selects poor candidates for treatment. Finally,
a comment is made about preventive detention effected by psychiatry, and an analogy made to the
habitual drunk driver.