Nearing the end of a 25-year sentence for a 1982 murder, Wesley Miller will be committed to involuntary outpatient treatment when he is released from prison on Sept. 30, a civil jury in Texas decided, the Houston Chronicle reports. If he fails to comply with any condition of his supervision, he can go back to prison on a third-degree felony, punishable by 25 years to life. Miller, 44, is the first convicted murderer in Texas to be tried under the state’s Sexually Violent Predator Act, a little-known statute in the state’s health and safety code. The goal is to help extremely dangerous sex offenders manage their behavior after release from prison and to protect the community.
Gina DeBottis of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said many sex offenders, including Miller, were convicted before lawmakers toughened sentences in 1993. ”Wesley Miller was going to walk out of prison without any supervision and no desire to get treatment,” DeBottis said. ”This is good for Wesley Miller, and it is good for Texas.” Such statutes in Texas and other states are hot-button issues among mental health and law experts. Some say the laws are inappropriate for dealing with criminal behavior. Civil liberties advocates argue they are unconstitutional because they ignore due process and punish offenders twice for the same crime. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1997 that the laws are constitutional. ”This is a sham program, in my opinion,” said David O’Neil of Huntsville who defends sex offenders in civil commitment trials. ”If Texas thinks that they’re that dangerous, why are they putting them back on the street?”