The Special Commitment Center Program (SCC), operated by the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), provides a specialized mental health treatment program for civilly committed sex offenders who have completed their prison sentences.
The civil commitment process is under the authority of the superior court in the county where an individual was previously convicted of sex crimes. Only sex offenders whom the court finds to meet the legal definition of a sexually violent predator may be civilly committed to the SCC.
Public safety is the central purpose of the Community Protection Act of 1990. In each of its facilities, the SCC Program employs a variety of stringent public safety and security measures to provide for the community's safety.
The institutional program, the first stop for civilly committed individuals, provides treatment in a total confinement facility on McNeil Island. The Sex Offender Treatment Program consists of increasingly challenging levels of rigorous treatment.
Each SCC resident has a right to an annual review hearing before the court of commitment to evaluate the resident’s progress in treatment. If the court finds that 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 a less restrictive alternative (LRA) community placement.
Any SCC resident committed to the total confinement facility may, at any time, petition the court for a conditional release to a less restrictive alternative placement. However, in ordering a conditional release, the court must be convinced, after considering evidence and expert testimony, that the proposed community living arrangement will provide adequate protection for the community.
Only SCC residents who have successfully completed the required levels of treatment in the institutional program and receive DSHS recommendation are eligible for placement in a Secure Community Transition Facility (SCTF). The SCC program operates two SCTF's: one on McNeil Island in Pierce County, the other in South Seattle in King County.
As a condition of release, each resident living in a court-ordered LRA placement must actively continue to participate in a rigorous LRA treatment program with a highly qualified court-appointed community sex offender treatment provider. The provider must make periodic reports to the court on the resident's progress in treatment. The community sex offender treatment provider, the assigned Community Corrections Officer from the Department of Corrections, and the SCC Community Program Psychologist or SCTF Manager work as a team to oversee the individual treatment and public safety plan for each resident.
In 1994, District Court for Western Washington imposed an injunction against the State of Washington and the SCC. The focus of the injunction was to assure that the State of Washington's civil commitment program met constitutionally adequate mental health treatment standards. In June 2004, the court narrowed the injunction to one area relating to the establishment of the mainland SCTF. The federal District Court for Western Washington dismissed the injunction in March 2007. That case is now closed in the federal district court.