Prospects for the Future of SVP Treatment Programs

  • David Thornton


This chapter seeks to provide some guidance for those tasked with running SVP treatment programs that are based in the available research, informed by the author’s experience of how different SVP programs operate in practice and enlightened by emerging models of good clinical practice. SVP programs damage the liberty interests of those committed, create uncomfortable role conflicts for the mental health professionals involved as well as arguably distorting mental health law, and, perhaps most fundamentally, may simply be poor social policy. Nevertheless, it must always be borne in mind that particularly serious sexual recidivism that captures media attention either by those considered for commitment but not committed or by discharged former SVPs not only entails significant harm to those directly involved but also has the potential to create irresistible public and political pressures that mandate higher commitment rates and severely impede future releases. Consequently, even concerns for liberty interests, professional ethics, and public cost are not well served by lax disregard of real risk. The challenge then is to operate SVP programs in a way that is responsive to real risk while not being overly risk-adverse.

Six principles are proposed intended to mitigate these concerns. These address pre-commitment services, highly selective commitment, employing the least restrictive alternative, graduated reduction of restrictions both in secure conditions and in the community and post-commitment services. The research background to SVP programs is reviewed, and the ways in which it has changed since SVP programs were originally developed are described. Finally, some guidance on key issues is provided.


SVP Liberty interests Least restrictive alternative Base rates Dynamic risk Evidence-based Risk management 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Thornton
    • 1
  1. 1.Forensic Assessment, Training, & Research (FAsTR), LLCMadisonUSA

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