A growing number of states are being pressured to keep incarcerated sex offenders behind bars longer. The response to this pressure has been to look to the mental health system and retrieve civil commitment for sex offenders, a policy largely abandoned in the 1960s. In the 1970s, the courts ruled that civil commitment to a mental institution required that the individual be both mentally ill and dangerous. So legislators, with the support of a few mental health professionals, met this requirement by legislatively reconstructing sex offenders as mentally ill and permitting their indefinite commitment to mental institutions. The author discusses the process of reconstructing sex offenders as mentally ill from a labeling perspective.

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