Thursday, February 19, 2015

Sex offenders charged with phony crimes to clear space on supervision rolls

Last weekend the Houston Chronicle published a followup story (Feb. 15) on the Office of Violent Sex Offender Management and Texas' dysfunctional civil commitment program. The article opened:
The state of Texas routinely sent sex offenders back to prison as new arrivals entered its civil commitment program, lacking funds to accommodate all of those being confined for what is supposed to be ongoing treatment.

While the U.S. Supreme Court has sanctioned civil commitment in Texas and 19 other states as long as it is therapeutic and not punitive, some legal scholars say Texas' program has been run to keep sex offenders in custody indefinitely.

Their constitutional concerns now have been bolstered by state records and interviews that suggest the agency charged with overseeing the civil commitment program, the Office of Violent Sex Offender Management, created a revolving door to avoid a shortage of bedspace, often using minor rule infractions as grounds to send its charges back to prison, sometimes for life.

Sen. John Whitmire, chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, now is calling for a review of all cases in which program participants, who already had completed their criminal sentences, were sent back to prison for breaking program rules.

"There's no question to me that they revoked more people when they ran out of beds, so they could continue committing people to the program," said Whitmire, who has spearheaded calls to reform the Office of Violent Sex Offender Management. "That's absolutely not the way this program was supposed to work."
The new agency head "has ordered the practice of criminally charging the offenders for minor technical violations stopped, and she is reviewing every case before it is referred to prosecutors," reported Mike Ward and Anita Hassan. The chart at right demonstrates how the number of convictions closely matched the number needed to bring their caseloads down to the levels funded by the Legislature.

Nothing excuses bureaucrats for charging people with phony crimes so that, for their own convenience, they can send them back to prison for minor rules violations. But it's true the agency finds itself between a legislatively created rock and a hard place. The Lege required that, "Under a 2005 change in the law [that] all of the committed offenders must live in jails, halfway houses or supervised apartments under contract with, or approved by, the Office of Violent Sex Offender Management." But "supervised apartments" face constant NIMBY backlash and halfway houses and jails aren't viable options.

The article ended with Sen. John Whitmire wondering aloud, "What do you do with them if you have no bed for them to go to? ... You can't send them back to prison because they have completed their sentence," he pointed out, "No one wants them released to the street. But if there are no beds available, where do they go?"

That's the question, isn't it? Being tough on crime is expensive and, eventually, politicians must either budget sufficiently for their policies or back away from them. Texas has reached precisely that point when it comes to the sex offender civil commitment program. Time to fish or cut bait.

MORE: At yesterday's Senate Finance hearing these issues were prominently raised. Again from Ward and Hassan:
Marsha McLane, executive director of the Office of Violent Sex Offender Management since last May, warned lawmakers: "We have no space for anyone else. Unfortunately, the only option may be that we have to go to the street with any new offenders."

McLane said two sex offenders finishing their criminal sentences are due to arrive in the program in the next week, and more than a dozen more are to enter the program by the end of August. All beds are now full, she said, and the state must find another 140 beds by August because two halfway houses have notified the agency they no longer will house the offenders.

"We've got a crisis on our hands," said Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman John Whitmire, D-Houston, a member of the Finance committee. "This is as big a screw-up as I've seen in all my years up here." ...
McLane said a bidding process for housing twice yielded nothing last year. And a statewide search of closed state youth lockups and adult prisons, even other empty state facilities, so far has come up empty.

"I've looked at 130 sites. Nothing is available," McLane told the House committee, noting that most communities do not want the convicted sex offenders moving in.
AND MORE: From the Texas Tribune.


Dominic Jiminez said...

I think it should not me made the typical rock and the hard-place situation. State of Texas must increase the budget to accommodate the burgeoning inmates in the center and sending them back to the prison should not even be considered an option, after they have completed their sentences.

sunray's wench said...

This is scaremongering at its finest (not you Grits, but in general). When someone, particularly a politician, says "No one wants them on the streets", you have to ask yourself if that is really true.

Who are these people that Whitmire thinks no one wants on the streets? Are they really all the predatory monsters that the media would have us believe they are? Or are they actually men who got caught doing something stupid with a just underage girl 20 years ago, have learned their lesson a hundred times over, and are no more dangerous "on the streets" than your average policeman.....?

They are an easy target, and we should be watching closely what is going on (or not going on) elsewhere.

The Comedian said...

One obvious option would be to release those offenders who have successfully completed the treatment program. Some of these men have been confined in civil commitment for 10+ years or more. One has successfully completed the "program" four times. At present, if an offender successfully completes the program, he will then be recycled back to the beginning and start all over again. Step out of line and it's back to TDCJ.

I have been told that, in the past, staff have been instructed to change their documentation if it made the offender look "too good". If an offender does too well in the program, he is labeled as playing the "Good Guy" role for the benefit of staff and advancement in the program.

Many of these offenders are housed in the Southeast Texas Transitional Center (formerly Ben Reid)in Houston where there is more sex, more drugs and other contraband available than on the streets of downtown Houston. Great place for a treatment program!

Something never addressed is the fact that many convicted sex offenders who are as "bad" or even worse than those civilly committed are simply released into the community each year after completing their sentence because the civil commitment program does not have room for them. Many of those who are civilly committed are far from the "worst of the worst" sex offenders, for whom civil commitment programs are intended.

In the actual treatment, there is a heavy emphasis on the offenders reviewing their past offenses, writing them down in detail and sharing them with other offenders in group sessions. In other words, they are encouraged to visualize and relive their sex offenses. Psychology 101 teaches us that this sort of "treatment" constitutes practicing future behaviors.

Imagine a group of bank robbers or drug dealers being encouraged to visualize and relive their past offenses and share the details with other similar offenders - year after year after year. The result would be better bank robbers and drug dealers. Perhaps that is the reason sex offenders are not released from civil commitment - they've learned how to become better sex offenders.

He's Innocent said...

In other words, they are encouraged to visualize and relive their sex offenses. Psychology 101 teaches us that this sort of "treatment" constitutes practicing future behaviors. - The Comedian

They are an easy target, and we should be watching closely what is going on (or not going on) elsewhere. - Sunray's Wrench

You are both absolutely correct! However, this practice is not restricted to these civilly committed offenders alone. I personally know several offenders currently in "Sex Offender Treatment". They all go to weekly "sessions", each costing up to $40. This includes my own spouse. A good friend's son is civilly committed on the ground of the Travis County Jail, behind a razor wire fence.

Each of these persons must relive/retell their crimes as soon as they enter treatment to the entire group. Then, as the therapy "progresses" through the two books, they must complete assignments on the craziest stuff such as exactly how their "crime" hurt their victims. How is that possible when your crime is consensual intercourse with your girlfriend? Or you've somehow picked up a single picture of child porn? It's just not possible, yet you are forced to recount how that person was traumatized. Then of course, those who have actually had a victim do indeed then educate their group mates on how they did their own crimes. All in the name of "therapy".

Civil commitment and sex offender therapy are both bogus crap. Those who have completed therapy come away speaking about sexuality in the most rigid and puritanical tones that are awkward to hear. These men must profess to think of themselves as sick humans who deserve to be throw-away people. One actually told my husband when he was driving my car that he was personally insulted by the writings on my window. It said "#CJreform". He expressed that it was offensive that my husband thought the criminal justice system needs reform when it's "US, not the system" (meaning the group of offenders) are the ones who need reform. IT'S BRAINWASHING!

Should anyone care to see the books that promote this brainwashing and just how damned contrary it is to human sexually in the modern age, please be my guest and order the books themselves. You'll see a purported expert in the field demand that sexual intercourse be for the married only and that any sexual activity outside of marriage is DEVIANT SEX. Who's the disturbed? After seeing that book, you will seriously wonder. I promise.

The books:

Be careful out there, catching a felony sex crime indictment is as easy as catching a cold!

Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that discussion about the fiasco seems to miss the issue of the civil commitment program essentially being a quota system. If this law was really about keeping the “worst of the worst” off the streets, then why would we ever want to “cap” how many individuals could go into the program? And if it was really about keeping the “worst of the worst” off the streets, shouldn’t there be years when far fewer than the quota found their way into the system? I’m willing to bet money that if the program could hold 500 men each year, that there’d be close to 500 men, and if that number grew to 1000, then magically, close to 1000 new “predators” would show up each year, too.

If I understand correctly, EVERY TDCJ inmate who has two sexually violent convictions must have his casefile reviewed for consideration for civil commitment. However, I believe many Texans would be appalled at what is considered a “violent” conviction. Touching a minor over their clothes is considered a violent offense. So is, for that matter, consensual sex that is statutorily against the law. The other determining factor is that the offender must have a “behavior abnormality” (the definition of which is left entirely open to expert opinion) that would prompt him to continue offending. A man who has been convicted of sexual assault of a minor for having had age-inappropriate (albeit consensual) sex with his underage girlfriend, and who still harbors feelings for the woman, and would want to see her again, could definitely be considered to have a behavioral abnormality.

There is also no limit on the time gap between these convictions. Realistically, a youth convicted of a sexually violent crime who then goes on to live a law abiding life for thirty years, and then finds himself in the midst of a nasty divorce and is accused of touching is daughter, and the circumstances of his past make a new conviction a slam dunk case against him, is a perfect candidate for this type of program regardless of his true risk to society. He now has two sexually violent convictions on his record and if he continues to plead innocence in the second one, then that will most certainly indicate a behavior abnormality that predisposes him to committing further sexual violence.

This law, which was intended to keep the Ted Bundy’s, serial rapists, and repeat child molesters from being released directly back into society has turned into so, so much more.

The very fact that it is a quota system wherein as many slots that can be filled do get filled whatever that number should be prima facie evidence that there are those who would fit the current qualifications to get into this program but who aren’t admitted due to limited space. The direct correlation to this is that there are potentially offenders who are far “worse” than the men in the program getting released to the streets simply because the quota has already been filled for the year and their discharge date says they must be let go.

If the legislature wants to fix this whole fiasco, perhaps in addition to actually letting men graduate the program after they have completed therapy, they should go to the source that supplies so many warm bodies to begin with and limit the “worst of the worst” to convictions that involve true sexual violence and predation, rather than abiding by the wide sweeping definition of sexual violence as it currently stands.

Anonymous said...

@ 01:34:00 PM That was the most concise and accurately written comment I've ever read about these bogus treatment programs. thanx

Anonymous said...

'most communities do not want the convicted sex offenders moving in' ... Isn't it ignorant not to be able to foresee that this would indeed eventually be the case? This is all caused by the very lawmakers that use anti-sex offender grand standing. Sex offender registries sell and sell easily.

Anonymous said...

@ 1:06 PM The author of those books is one sick and crooked evil bastard. He is a contributor to this fiasco.

George said...

Here's my two cents worth on all of this. Anytime there is an opportunity to capitalize on the hysteria of "what them damn sex offenders could do", people are lined up and ready to support it and make money off of it.

I'm actually a little surprised that this is receiving as much publicity as it has thus far. We'll have to wait and see if any meaningful changes are going to be made in how the state is going to deal with the civilly committed sex offenders.

I know without a doubt that there some truly deviant and deranged psychopaths currently in the civil commitment program and the ones in this category do not need to be released without extreme caution, if ever. However, the vast majority of registered citizens in this state, in our nation and I dare say throughout the world will NEVER commit another sex offense.

Our elected state officials should stop the charade of "protecting the children" and clean up the whole damn system and admit that it's all based on applying punitive measures towards a segment of society that have very few advocates.

For those of you who don't know how that feels, just ask the blacks from the pre-civil rights era or gay/lesbians until just recently. Look at the people around each day, the ones you pass in your cars or on the sidewalks. Hell, one out of every 200 people in this state is a registered citizen. Where is the huge threat to society from these citizens? If that was the case then every lead story on TV would be about this.

None of it makes any sense but it does make a great deal of money for the treatment providers and electronic monitoring companies to name just a few.

I envision a day when true justice is meted out, I don't know if I'll ever see it but one can hope can't they -- because without hope what is there really?

Anonymous said...

Can someone please explain to me why two consenting adults that happen to be cousins by adoption (not by blood) should be charged with a violent sex crime, and placed on a public registry for life (for the safety of the public) because they had consensual relations with each other? (Texas Statutes - Section 25.02: PROHIBITED SEXUAL CONDUCT)

Even if they were related by blood, as much as it's totally yuck, I still can't understand why that makes them violent criminals and threat to public safety for life.

Anonymous said...

1:06 is absolutely correct about the treatment being brainwashing. I've been going to these classes for nearly three years with another five to go. Its 1984 with the therapist being O'Brien and the offenders being Winston Smith. I object as much as possible to the therapists's theories but have been threatened with expulsion and ten years in jail if I go too far. This is the way the Soviet Union treated its dissidents, as being mentally ill.

He's Innocent said...

@10:28 PM

You've been going for three years with another five to go? Gosh, you must be a true imbecile! And likely a true danger to society!

....... because surely "therapy" lasts a couple years, and life goes back to normal! (thinks the average Joe Citizen who is so un-educated about the racket of this business!)

Do take the above as the snark it is intended to be.

For those of you who do not know, therapy is considered "complete" when your parole or probation officer deems you have completed it to his/her satisfaction. It is NOT up to the counselor as to if you should be moved to a "maintenance" program where you must attend only once per month. Do not forget the compulsory, annual polygraph, which the "client" must pay for at up to $250 a pop. So this man should be graduated by now, but a vindictive PO who has no incentive to release him, has the final say.

As someone else said, this is 1984 in real life.

TriggerMortis said...

A year or so ago I clicked a link to a site I found here that tracks cops who commit child sex crimes. I have been following it and have seen thousands of cases profiled.

I'm amazed that the media hasn't picked up on this epidemic and publicized it like they do school teachers. If any of the reporters who read GFB would care to provide an answer, I'd be grateful.

DEWEY said...

Can anyone name ONE person that has successfully completer the program and been released ???? Just one ????

rodsmith said...

from what I understand about the first program that started in minesota that has run now for almost 2 decades. NONE have ever successfully completed it. A very few maybe 3 or 4 have been released after finding the funds to sue the shit out of them and getting a judge to order their release. to date none have reoffended.

sorry but I consider the current sex offender civil-commitment system an illegal detention and they have every legal right to leave it no matter who they have to hurt or kill to do it.