When Mark Petersimes, one of Texas’ most dangerous sexual predators vanished from a Dallas halfway house in May, he sliced the electronic monitor from his ankle and strolled to a nearby convenience store before disappearing, says the Dallas Morning News. He was one of 66 violent sexual predators judged to be so dangerous, so likely to offend again after their prison time, that they were committed to an intensive supervisory program similar to house arrest.
The ease of his getaway shows a major difference between Texas’ civil commitments and those of the 16 other states with such programs. Only Texas has an outpatient program that releases offenders into the community rather than keeping them under lock and key. Critics say the program is small and poorly funded and offers little public protection. Nor have offenders been rehabilitated. No one has been released from civil commitment since the program began in 2001, and more than 40 percent of the offenders have gone back to prison for rules infractions. None has committed a new sex offense. “What it sells the public on is a false sense of safety that Texas really is doing more than they are,” said Judy Johnson, a Texas Department of Criminal Justice manager. “It is a Band-Aid for a much bigger problem.”