Civil Commitment Unit for Sexual Offenders

The Civil Commitment Unit for Sexual Offenders (CCUSO) provides a secure, long-term, and highly-structured setting to treat sexually violent predators who have served their prison terms, but who, in a separate civil trial, have been found likely to commit further violent sexual offenses.

The CCUSO was created by the 1998 Sexually Violent Predators Act of Iowa to provide secure, inpatient treatment for sexual offenders who are believed to be a high risk for sexually re-offending.  Inpatient treatment is indefinite, with the length of commitment dependent upon the time required for each individual to complete the criteria for advancement through five treatment phases.  Some of the criteria used for advancement are as follows:

Successfully passing a series of polygraph exams regarding their sexual deviancy;

  • Completion of a one-year curriculum of psycho-educational classes on topics such as cognitive skills, victim empathy, relapse prevention, relationship skills, human sexuality, self-esteem, anger management, personal victimization, and families of origin;

  • Insight into various factors that contributed to offending behavior;

  • Resolution of past traumas and resentments;

  • Demonstration of victim empathy and empathy for others;

  • Demonstration of satisfactory leisure skills;

  • Demonstration of good cognitive coping skills;

  • Reduction of deviant arousal as ascertained by two physiological measures;

  • Development of a strong relapse prevention plan;

  • Demonstration of adequate social and intimacy skills;

  • Development of a realistic and positive self-concept;

  • Development of good communication and problem-solving skills; and

  • Motivation for treatment and change. 

Who is eligible to receive services:

In order to be referred to the CCUSO, the following must occur:

  • The individual must be nearing completion of a criminal sentence for a "sexually motivated" offense;

  • The individual must meet the criteria established by statute for a "sexually violent predator," including determination that the individual has a "mental abnormality" or "personality disorder" that makes it "more likely than not" to engage in future acts of a sexually violent nature;

  • The individual must be referred for commitment by a Multidisciplinary Team, the Prosecutor's Review Committee, and be determined by a professional evaluator to be a high-risk for re-offending; and

  • The individual must be found to be a "sexually violent predator" by a civil court.

How to apply for services or refer someone to this facility: 

All individuals are referred to the CCUSO program through the statutorily established system, including the Multidisciplinary Team and the Prosecutor's Review Committee.  The Multidisciplinary Team screens all inmates who are currently incarcerated before their release. 

How to get more information:

Additional information may be obtained by contacting:

Civil Commitment Unit for Sexual Offenders
1251 West Cedar Loop
Cherokee, Iowa 51012
(712) 225-6943

Brief description: 

Although this Sexually Violent Predator (SVP) program was created by statute in 1998, it did not begin operations until April 21, 1999.  Since that time, the program has received approximately one individual per month through court committal.

The program's title is the "Civil Commitment Unit for Sexual Offenders" to avoid overly stigmatizing the individuals who will eventually be released, once they achieve the appropriate criteria. 

Structure of the organization:

The CCUSO is operated by the Iowa Department of Human Services, under the directorship of Charles M. Palmer and under the leadership of Richard Shults, Administrator, Division of Mental Health and Disability Services.  The facility's interim administrator is Brad Wittrock.

Psychiatric security specialists, who are supervised by treatment program supervisors, provide direct-care services to the individuals served.  The therapists, who are supervised by the clinical director, provide direct clinical services.

People served:

The CCUSO is located in Cherokee (on the campus of the Cherokee Mental Health Institute) and serves sexually violent predators for all 99 Iowa counties.

SVP Catchment Area

SVP Catchment Area

As of June 2011, eighty-three individuals are committed to the CCUSO, which has a 100-bed capacity.  Individuals who are committed to the CCUSO have long-term treatment needs and it is anticipated that cooperative and motivated individuals could be eligible for discharge within three to five years.

Other information:

The Iowa CCUSO program was modeled after the Kansas and Minnesota SVP programs.  It has clearly identified 10 universal treatment goals, and these are used as a basis for developing specific, individualized treatment plans for each individual.

Each individual's progress is evaluated every 90 days, and the program utilizes three types of objective, physiological measures on a regular basis: the polygraph, the penile plethysmograph, and the Abel Assessment.  The program is further structured to provide intrinsic incentives to motivate cooperation with treatment programming.