Title 18 U.S.C. Section 4248: Civil Commitment of a Sexually Dangerous Person
The Walsh Act, also known as the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA),
enacted at 42 U.S.C. § 16911, provides for the civil commitment of sexually dangerous persons.
Title 18 U.S.C. § 4248 provides that the BOP may institute proceedings by certifying that a person
is sexually dangerous. A sexually dangerous person (SDP) is defined in §4247(a)(5) as one “who
has engaged or attempted to engage in sexually violent conduct or child molestation and who is
sexually dangerous to others.” Pursuant to § 4247(a)(6), a person is considered sexually dangerous
to others if he “suffers from a serious mental illness, abnormality, or disorder as a result of which
he would have serious difficulty in refraining from sexually violent conduct or child molestation if
released.” The Walsh Act requires the BOP to determine if an inmate being released is sexually
dangerous, and to submit certification to the district court where the person is confined, to
determine if civil commitment is necessary.
The BOP Sex Offender Certification Review Branch (SOCRB) oversees the civil commitment
process. SOCRB reviews the assignments of all inmates prior to release, to ascertain whether there
is any history of relevant conduct. For inmates with a record of attempted or actual sexual violence
or child molestation, an assessment is made of empirically-based static and dynamic risk factors.
Psychological and legal records are also examined. Consideration is given to a wide range of
factors including criminal history, social and family support, mental and physical health,
institution conduct, and other data. The Certification Review Panel (CRP) is tasked with making
the final certification determination. Should the CRP find that an individual is an SDP,
certification may delay the inmate’s release. A District Court judge in the federal jurisdiction in
which the offender is held will conduct a hearing and determine the merits of the CRP finding. If
the court concurs with the CRP determination, the inmate is placed in the custody of the Attorney
General as a civil commitment, and is then held indefinitely. Efforts are then made to secure
placement with the individual’s state of residence. If those efforts are unsuccessful, the inmate will
remain in the BOP as a resident in the Commitment and Treatment Program (CTP) until such time
as the court of commitment determines the individual to be no longer sexually dangerous.