- Houston Chronicle: Scathing audit paints sex offender agency in disarray
- Austin Statesman: Audit finds oversight problems in sex-offender agency
Now, as the Houston Chronicle summarized the auditors' report, we learn additional critiques that more directly implicate past management, though in the context of an inherently insular and dysfunctional system. "The agency responsible for overseeing the state's civil commitment program for violent sex offenders awarded most of its contracts without competitive bidding, did not keep appropriate financial records and failed to monitor - or even plan for - the treatment of the men under its supervision." Add to this the fact that it's basically impossible for the agency to find free-world housing for its charges thanks to NIMBY backlashes wherever they try to place them.
Basically, nothing works at all in Texas' civil commitment system. Supervision and programming are ineffectual, finances are unaccountable, housing is non-existent (leaving the state at the mercy of vendors), the sole judge given authority over the cases is routinely recused for personal bias, and the hits just keep on coming. And all this so the state can continue to punish a few hundred people who've already discharged their complete criminal sentences under the law. Grits hasn't dug into this jumbled mess deeply enough to suggest what the immediate fixes are, besides disempowering Judge Seiler and sending the cases back to local judges. But the status quo is untenable.
One suspects the key measures will be filed by Senate Criminal Justice Chairman John Whitmire, who made a game attempt to exercise oversight during the interim as the agency's situation deteriorated. But flaws in the civil commitment program are embedded in its statutory design, not driven by personalities, even Allison Taylor's or Judge Seiler's. Meaningful solutions - whether reforming the system or ending it - can really only happen while the Legislature is in session. By the end of May, we'll see what they do.