A controversy is brewing in Texas over civilly committed sex offenders, people who’ve completed their sentences but been kept under supervision through civil proceedings, culminating in the resignation of the board chair at Texas’ Office of Violent Sex Offender Management, reports the Grits for Breakfast blog. Most of the discussion has focused on demonizing the agency for housing too many such offenders in a handful of neighborhoods. The real problem is the failed underlying policy that “fails to acknowledge that a) these folks must live somewhere and b) public safety is poorly served by ostracizing ex-offenders instead of promoting reintegration.”
The Houston Chronicle, in an article available only to paid subscribers, says that the few hundred sex offenders involved officially are labeled the worst of the worst, Legal experts, former employees and legislators now suggest that the biggest controversy may involve the program itself, says the Chronicle: Why outpatient treatment supposedly intended to transition offenders out of confinement once they complete rehabilitation programs, never has. Not one offender in 15 years has left confinement. “The only way out appears to be to die,” said Nicolas Hughes, a Harris County assistant public defender who has represented several offenders in the program. “That’s not how it’s supposed to work. In that regard, it’s clearly not constitutional. These people are just being kept locked up.” Proponents of civil commitment programs for sex offenders insist it is legal, pointing to a string of court decisions upholding its strict rules.