Faced with a worsening housing shortage and no prospect of a quick solution, officials quietly have started putting together "home plans" for most of the state's 185 sex offenders deemed too dangerous to live unsupervised in society.These "civil commitment" programs are floundering all over the country. Wrote Ward and Hassan:
So critical is the housing problem, officials said, that a two-time child molester freed from prison on Friday had to be temporarily placed in an already-full Houston halfway house after nearly 100 nursing homes refused to take the man, who is confined to a wheelchair and is developmentally disabled. State officials said he would not return home because several of his immediate family members also are sex offenders.
"We have no places to put the ones that are coming out of prison, and we have no place for the 185 who are in halfway houses and have to be out in August," said Marsha McLane, executive director of the Office of Violent Sex Offender Management that oversees Texas' civil-commitment program for repeat sex predators. "I would say we have a crisis on our hands."
Should the agency eventually implement the "home plans," the men would be sent back to live in their communities under supervision, required to wear ankle monitors to track their movements 24 hours a day. Caseworkers would check in on them each day.
Texas is one of several states with a civil commitment program in limbo. Minnesota lawmakers are scurrying to make reforms to that state's civil commitment program under the threat of a court ruling that legal experts say could place it under federal control or shutter it altogether.Just this week headlines from Kansas and Missouri iterated that point:
Last fall, the Missouri Attorney General's Office halted civil commitment trials in the Show Me State for six months while it prepared to fight a class-action federal lawsuit claiming the program is unconstitutional. That trial is set for later this year.
- Kansas faces criticism for cost of sex offender program
- Class action lawsuit begins over Missouri's treatment of sexually violent predators
- Missouri's SORTS program looks a lot like prison
Regardless, everyone acknowledges that alone won't fix the housing problem nor stop NIMBYs from opposing and thwarting every possible, viable option. So then what?
RELATED: Analyzing legislation to reform Texas' sex-offender civil commitment program