WA Sex Offender Civil Commitment: Cost-Effective At $177,000?


The Kitsap (Wa.) Sun, in a three-part series, examines Washington state’s 20-year-old civil-commitment program to hold sexually violent predators, currently 280 of them, indefinitely in a “special commitment center” on McNeil Island in south Puget Sound. It costs about $177,000 a year to house each resident at the center, which adds up to about $48 million a year for all those committed. It costs $34,000 a year to house an inmate in a state prison.

Other costs include the roughly $350,000 to put a case before a jury and commit them there. Each resident is also entitled to an annual review of their confinement. State Attorney General Rob McKenna acknowledges that it's expensive, but he says the center is “highly effective.” Given that many sex abuse victims never disclose the abuse to authorities, McKenna sees an even greater need for the facility. He says that those confined are likely to have many more victims than they were convicted for. Sixty-four percent of those confined refuse treatment, and many feel their only avenue is release by the courts – a path that has been successful for about 14 men in the facility's history. “This is a prison!” a few residents grumbled during a recent media tour of the grounds. There are residents who will stay for the rest of their lives.

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