Predicting Sex Offender Recidivism: An Examination of Florida's Sex Offender Civil Commitment Law

Karol Lucken, University of Central Florida
Bill Bales, Florida State University

Sixteen states have implemented sex offender civil commitment (SOCC) laws, resulting in approximately 3,500 sex offenders being detained upon the expiration of their lawful prison sentence. The critical and controversial piece of SOCC policies is the attempt to determine the likelihood of future sexual re-offending, through various clinical and actuarial assessments. To date, no research exists on the organization and professional-judgment processes associated with these assessments. This study investigates Florida's SOCC law, administered by the Sexually Violent Predator Program (SVPP), by evaluating the decision-making associated with predicting future sex offending. Two decision-making points are of interest, namely the initial screening and the subsequent clinical psychological evaluation. Data is gathered from the SVPP database, which contains comprehensive records on 9,000 cases referred between July 2000 and August 2003. These data are supplemented with information obtained from surveys and a random sample of results from the face to face/clinical evaluations of the sex offender. Two logistic regression analyses will be conducted to identify the unique effects of the independent variables on each of two outcome decisions. Ultimately, the analyses will indicate the relative weight of static versus dynamic risk factors and whether salient differences (legal or otherwise) exist between sex offenders deemed not likely to recidivate and sex offenders referred to the next phase of evaluation and ultimately a civil commitment trial.

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Updated 05/20/2006