Civil Commitment As A Means Of Crime Prevention Discussion Help

Your instructor has assigned you a viewpoint on whether to support or oppose the use of civil commitment to prevent future crimes.

You are to argue the use of civil commitment for me.

Argue your assigned position or viewpoint in the discussion thread. You must argue this assigned position using ethical tests and theories learned earlier in the course. Arguments should include facts and examples.

To acess textbook


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Textbook: Criminal Law Today, pp. 103-106, Chapters 5 and 6 (focus on specific sections identified below)

This reading discusses various defenses that are used by persons charged with a crime. Justifications for each defense will be explored. Specific criminal offenses will also be examined. In chapter 6, be sure to focus your reading on the following sections: The Insanity Defense and Civil Commitment.

Then, post two responses to the discussion thread on the opposing viewpoint. In your responses, be sure to use ethical arguments that support your assigned viewpoint.

Peer post one

Against using civil commitments.

The largest issue I see with civil commitments is the constitutionality of it. “The most prominent of these protections is the Fifth

Amendment, which states “[n]o person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”(Zolfo, 2018) Most states only require a family member to go in front of a probate judge, tell them why need a mental health evaluation, then the judge signs the order. Then that person is picked up by law enforcement and taken to a hospital for evaluation. Then a doctor can say yes this person has this issue, and needs to be sent to a mental health facility. That person is then taken to a mental health facility and “locked up”. That means you just took away that person’s home, job, and freedom. With just one signature from a judge, that is not a whole lot of due process. Ethically a judge should have an issue with this system because as a judge one of your main concerns should be that each person is getting fair and impartial treatment, with due process.

The Supreme Court has held up commitments based on the fact it is not a punishment. ” They are not confined because they were convicted of a crime and are being punished.”(Zolfo, 2018) Being committed should have an appeals process in order to not be falsely committed with little to no evidence.


Zolfo, M. (2018). Commitment through Fear: Mandatory Jury Trials and Substantive Due Process Violations in the Civil Commitment of Sex Offenders in Illinois. Chicago-Kent Law Review, (Issue 2), 593. Retrieved from

Side note, arguing against civil commitments was really hard because they serve a purpose and we would be in a world of hurt if we did not have them.

Peer post 2

The use of Civil commitment is a method utilized more increasingly by states and federal government as means to keep those with mental health in confinement for the safety of the public. This is for in their opinion the best way to keep those suffering mental health or a danger to themselves from harming anyone. According to the literature “The purpose of such confinement is not deterrence or retribution. It is a civil process that may be initiated regardless of whether a crime has been committed or prosecuted” (Schmalleger, Hall, 2017, 199). This to me is the main reason it is morally and ethically wrong. They are putting those in need with mental health issues in confinement for things they haven’t done wrong. They should be getting treatment and equal opportunity as any other citizen would.

This method is against their right’s as a person. There is no substantial evidence proving this is a useful tool. “Expanding civil commitment and institutionalization would not be a useful tool for improving public safety and would also fail to help people with mental illness. Such measures would turn back the clock to a time when individuals could be hospitalized without their consent, even if they did not pose a danger to themselves or others” (Shields et al, 2018). This is a quick method to appear proactive and an easier method for politicians looking to deflect public pressure for gun control laws. According to research only roughly 3 percent of violent crime are attributable to serious mental illness and that small percentage could even be related to substance abuse. Again, this is not the best method for assisting those with mental health. They are just making their issues worse and again it’s unconstitutional for them to depend on civil commitment. They can protect the people with alternative and more appropriate and beneficial methods that will help those struggling with mental health.


Schmalleger, F., & Hall, D. E. (2017). Criminal Law Today (Sixth ed.). Pearson. doi:9780134163734

Shields, M. C., & Ne’eman, A. (2018, April 6). Expanding Civil Commitment Laws Is Bad Mental Health Policy. Retrieved March 24, 2019, from…

Some other info that might help

In the United States, persons accused of crimes are permitted to have legal representation in a criminal proceeding against them. This representation is usually provided by an attorney paid for by the defendant or by the government if the defendant cannot afford an attorney. Government-appointed defense attorneys are typically called public defenders. In addition to having the right to legal representation, defendants also have a right to present reasons that they are not guilty of the crimes of which they are being accused. There are a myriad of possible reasons, such as the police arresting the wrong person; the defendant being out of town during the time that the crime was committed and having a good alibi; or anything in between. This type of defense is usually defined by the law as affirmative criminal defense (Cucolo & Perlin, 2013).

Whenever persons are accused of a crime (defendants), defense attorneys usually meet with them to review the case before going to the criminal proceeding (court). This review usually includes reading the arrest reports, speaking with any witnesses, and interviewing family members or friends who may speak on behalf of the defendant. Together they develop a plan to defend the accused client in court. Deciding on what type of defense to use is important because the burden of proof lies with the prosecutor, who must prove that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecutor must convince the jury and judge that the person accused of committing the crime is in fact guilty (Miller, 2010).

In some cases the defense will admit that the defendant is guilty of the crime but will offer a reason for committing the crime. Examples include self-defense, consent, intoxication, and the statute of limitations. Self-defense may be used in both misdemeanors and felonies, including capital crimes. Consider the case of George Zimmerman. He was arrested for shooting 17-year-old Trayvon Martin to death in February 2012 in Florida (Schmalleger & Hall, 2014). He claimed self-defense, stating that he feared for his life because the teenager attacked him. Florida is one of 25 states with a “stand your ground” law, which allows people to use deadly force if they fear for their lives. Although the prosecution presented a substantial amount of evidence, the jury accepted Zimmerman’s defense and found him not guilty of murder. In other cases, the defendant may admit that he or she “did something,” but only with the consent of the victim, such as in a case of sexual assault. The defendant may also claim that he or she was intoxicated at the time of the crime and did not have a full understanding of what he or she was doing when committing the crime, such as robbing a bank while under the influence of drugs.

In most circumstances, prosecutors have a limited amount of time to bring charges against a person for committing a crime, known as the statute of limitations. Defendants will often ask that charges be dropped because the time limit has passed. The majority of capital crimes, such as murder, are not subject to the statute of limitations in most jurisdictions.

In some cases, persons accused of crimes have claimed that they were forced to break the law against their will. Consider the case of Mary Virginia Jones. She was arrested in 1981 in California for helping her boyfriend commit murder. Although her attorney presented evidence supporting her claim that her abusive boyfriend forced her at gunpoint to be an accomplice to the crime, she was sentenced to prison. Thirty-two years later, she was released from prison after receiving a new trial where her defense was accepted. In other cases, defendants can claim that they were going to commit a crime when arrested but changed their mind and did not carry it out. These defenses are typically identified as abandonment and withdrawal. Can you think of a famous case where the defendant was caught in the act of committing a crime but claimed this defense? Defendants will often state that they committed a crime because of insanity. In addition to the other types of defense used, the insanity defense is one of the most widely used in the U.S. judicial system. However, this defense is most often used in capital crimes such as murder (Cucolo & Perlin, 2013).

Criminal Punishment

The punishment for crimes can range from serving a few days in jail and paying a fine to a life sentence in prison for manslaughter to the death penalty for committing first-degree murder. In the United States, the punishment for crime is usually dictated by the crime itself. For example, an infraction for something like littering will usually result in a small fine, but a misdemeanor, such as carrying a firearm without a permit, may result in a fine plus jail time. However, this all depends on where the crime was committed. Major crimes, or felonies, such as armed robbery or manslaughter, not only result in large fines, restitution, and jail time, they often result in an extended jail stay for the person convicted of committing the crime. Persons convicted of committing capital crimes such as murder may be sentenced to life in prison without the chance for parole, or they may be sentenced to death (Raines, 2010).

In most states, judges have leniency in how long they sentence someone to prison (Schmalleger & Hall, 2014). However, in other states, as well as in the federal judiciary, sentencing guidelines dictate how long a person will have to serve in prison. In these cases, judges have very little say and must sentence the person to prison based upon these guidelines. In most cases a person becomes eligible for parole after completing a portion of his or her sentence. This is not the case for persons sentenced to federal prisons. They must complete 100% of their time in order to be released from prison.

Civil Commitment as a Deterrent

In some cases people may be physically confined by a state or federal court in order to deter them from committing crime. Although a commitment order is usually considered to be a civil action rather than a criminal case, individuals may be confined for a variety of reasons. Usually this occurs because the defendants or people being confined are experiencing some form of mental illness. In some cases, civil commitment takes place after a person has already been convicted of a crime (Schmalleger & Hall, 2014). In many instances, people may have already served their required jail time but may demonstrate some form of mental illness during routine interviews with probation and parole officers, physicians, or social workers, to the point where authorities believe that they are a danger to themselves or others. Usually people are confined to state mental facilities, where they receive continuous evaluation and treatment under the watchful eye of armed correctional or security officers. Although it is common for some of these persons to be released after treatment, some will remain in these facilities for the rest of their lives.

Although highly controversial, many states use civil commitment as a deterrent to future crimes. This often happens with persons previously convicted of sexual crimes. Consider the case of Juan Carlos Chavez. He was convicted of kidnapping, sexually assaulting, and murdering a nine-year-old boy as he left the school bus and walked home. As a result of his crime and conviction, the state of Florida passed the Jimmy Ryce Involuntary Civil Commitment for Sexually Violent Predators’ Treatment and Care Act (Raines, 2010). The act requires that certain sexual predators be indefinitely committed to a mental facility for treatment after having already completed their time served in prison.

Although 21 states have passed their own version of the Ryce Act, civil commitment as a deterrent to future crimes is highly controversial (Miller, 2010). In most cases, those opposed to civil commitment as a deterrent to crime believe that the commitment violates the person’s constitutional rights to due process (Cucolo & Perlin, 2013). They also believe that civil commitment is a form of double jeopardy, or being charged twice for the same crime. Do you believe that civil commitment should be used as a deterrent to future crimes? Why or why not?


Cucolo, H., & Perlin, M. L. (2013). ‘They’re planting stories in the press’: The impact of media distortions on sex offender law and policy. Retrieved from

Laniewski, S., Martineau, M. Sims, N. & Wheeler, J. (2012). Courts 101: An understanding of the court system. Arlington, VA: Integrated Justice Information Systems Institute.

Miller, J. A. (2010). Sex offender civil commitment: The treatment paradox. California Law Review, 98(6), 2093–2117.

Raines, J. B. (2010). Ethics in policing: Misconduct and integrity. Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett.

Schmalleger, F. J., & Hall, D. E. (2014). Criminal law today (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.


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