Mentally Disordered Sex Offenders

  • John Monahan
  • Sharon Kantorowski Davis
Part of the Perspectives in Law & Psychology book series (PILP, volume 6)


“Sex,” Havelock Ellis (1936) once wrote, “is the central problem of life.” While it may not be the central problem, it is surely a major problem of law as well. Since Michigan enacted the first “sex psychopath” statute in 1937, the diversion from the criminal justice system to the mental health system of those who have committed a sexual offense and are believed to be mentally disordered has been fraught with controversy. Conservatives have charged that the indeterminate confinement that accompanies such diversion results in offenders being released “too soon,” while liberals have argued that it results in a confinement that is “too long.” A recent legislative hearing in California, the state with the largest program for mentally disordered sex offenders (MDSOs), heard a staff psychiatrist at an MDSO facility testify that “What I feel quite often is this guy ought to be in the slammer.” When a legislator stated that “any sex offender is mentally messed up, so let’s lock the SOBs up and get on with the business of the people of California,” the hearing room resounded in applause (Luther, 1981, p. 22).1 When the Wisconsin legislature considered whether to abolish that state’s Sex Crimes Act in 1979 not a single witness could be found to defend the statute. The repeal was passed unanimously by both houses of the legislature and promptly signed by the governor (Ransley, 1980).


Property Crime Sexual Offense Defense Attorney Mental Health Facility Plea Bargaining 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Monahan
    • 1
  • Sharon Kantorowski Davis
    • 2
  1. 1.School of LawUniversity of VirginiaCharlottesvilleUSA
  2. 2.Department of Behavioral ScienceUniversity of La VerneLa VerneUSA

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