Special Commitment Center

What We Do

The Special Commitment Center programs provide specialized mental health treatment for civilly committed sex offenders who have completed their prison sentences. 

The SCC serves as the treatment lead of a multi-tiered system supporting SCC residents and public safety.  Before level III sex offenders complete their prison sentences, a committee of experts evaluate whether they have mental abnormalities which may make them more likely to reoffend.  This End of Sentence Review Committee includes representatives from the Department of Corrections; Department of Children, Youth and Family Services; Department of Social and Health Services; Indeterminate Review Board; and law enforcement.

The court system then orders these residents to SCC.  Courts may at a later time order residents to less restrictive alternatives than the total confinement facility, and in some cases, may order residents to be unconditionally released.  All residents also have defense attorneys advocating on their behalf. 

When residents transition to LRAs in the community, the Department of Corrections provides security recommendations and assigns each resident a corrections specialist, and while SCC maintains oversight of residents, the treatment transfers to community sex offense treatment providers. 

McNeil Island’s Total Confinement Facility

Civilly committed residents first enter the SCC’s total confinement facility on McNeil Island.  This Sex Offender Treatment Program consists of increasingly challenging levels of rigorous treatment.

Community Transition

Each SCC resident has a constitutional right to an annual review hearing before the court of commitment to evaluate progress made in treatment.  If the court finds the resident has made progress to the point that the resident can be safely managed in the community, the court may order the resident’s conditional release to an LRA community placement.

In addition to annual reviews, any SCC resident committed to the total confinement facility may at any time petition the superior court for a conditional release to an LRA placement, or to an unconditional release.  While rarer, unconditional releases can be ordered by courts; in these cases, former residents no longer have SCC oversight.

Residents released to LRAs may transfer to secure community transition facilities on McNeil Island in Pierce County or in South Seattle in King County, or may be transferred to community LRAs.  Learn more about the types of LRAs here.


Q1.  How is a resident of the Special Commitment Center found to be a sexually violent predator?

A1.  Upon completion of their prison sentence, a person identified as potentially being a sexually violent predator goes through a psychological evaluation by a licensed psychologist.  The evaluation must identify that the individual suffers from a personality disorder and/or mental abnormality that makes them more likely than not to commit an act of sexual violence if not confined to a secure facility.  The superior court judge (court system) in the county of conviction will review the evaluation to make the final decision.  The defense attorney and prosecutor may have experts provide additional evaluations.  If the court determines a person to be a sexually violent predator, the person is then civilly committed to the Special Commitment Center for public safety and treatment.

Q2.  Who decides a resident no longer meets sexually violent predator criteria?

A2.  Residents have a new psychological evaluation and court review every year to determine if they still meet the criteria stated in FAQ 1.  This process is outlined in Revised Code of Washington 71.09.070. Annual examinations of persons committed under chapter—Suspension of section.

Q3.  How are residents released from the SCC?

A3.  Residents may be released from the SCC, per court order, either conditionally or unconditionally.

Conditional release means a resident is ordered by the court to release to a less restrictive alternative in the community, while still under close supervision and with court-imposed safety conditions. 

Unconditional release means a resident is ordered by the court to release without any additional conditions imposed by the court, the same as if they were released directly from prison, and occurs when a person no longer meets criteria for civil commitment. 

Q4.  Once a resident is granted unconditional release by the court, does the sexually violent predator legal designation remain on their record?

A4.  Once the resident is unconditionally released from civil commitment under RCW 71.09, they are no longer considered as meeting the definition of “sexually violent predator.”  The fact that they were once civilly committed remains a fact in their criminal record

Q5.  If the Special Commitment Center program didn’t exist, what would happen to sexually violent predators after their prison sentences?

A5.  Prior to the creation of the SCC, sexually violent predators were released into the community after their prison sentences.  The Community Protection Act of 1990 created the ability to civilly commit sexually violent predators, and the SCC was established to provide inpatient treatment.

See LRA FAQs here.