Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment [saj] PL251–227447 September 11, 2000 15:54 Style ﬁle version Nov. 19th, 1999
Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, Vol. 13, No. 1, 2001
Great Analysis, But Problematic Assumptions:
A Critique of Janus and Meehl (1997)
Dennis M. Doren
and Douglas L. Epperson
Janus and Meehl (Psychology, Public Policy, and Law (1997), 3(1), 33–64) em-
ployed a sophisticated analysis to discover what is the actual standard that judges
use in determining which sex offenders meet criteria for a civil commitment within
the purviews of “sexual predator” laws. Their analysis relied on various assump-
tions, most of which were speciﬁed and explicated by the authors. They concluded
that the judiciarydoesnot even approach meeting the standards that it sets for itself
when it comes to adjudicating the threshold for these types of commitments. Two
of the fundamental underlying assumptions within their analysis may be seriously
ﬂawed, however. Using current information related to either of these assumptions,
without changing any other aspect of the analysis, the ultimate ﬁnding concerning
the judiciary standard would actually be reversed from what Janus and Meehl
KEY WORDS: commitment; predator; judiciary standard; prediction; Janus and Meehl.
The new civil commitment laws for sex offenders, often called “sexual
predator” laws, raise many ethical and practical issues. One of the more important
of these issues is the threshold at which sex offenders are considered dangerous
enough to be committed involuntarily and thereby lose many of their freedoms.
This threshold question is becoming increasingly important because these laws
already exist in numerous states (e.g., Arizona, California, Illinois, Minnesota)
and may about to be legislated in others (e.g., Michigan, Oregon).
Mendota Mental Health Institute, Madison, Wisconsin.
Sand Ridge Secure Treatment Center, Mauston, Wisconsin.
Department of Psychology, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.
To whom correspondence should be addressed at Mendota Mental Health Institute, 301 Troy Drive,
Madison, Wisconsin 53704-1521.
2001 Plenum Publishing Corporation