Tuesday, April 28, 2015

No room at the inn: Proposed Lege reforms won't solve civil-commitment housing SNAFU

The crisis over Texas' dysfunctional sex offender civil commitment program deepened this week, reported the Houston Chronicle's Mike Ward and Anita Hassan (April 25), and, though legislation is in the works to modify the process, "Even if the reforms are approved, the housing crisis will remain." Until then:
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.

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.
These "civil commitment" programs are floundering all over the country. Wrote Ward and Hassan:
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.

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.
Just this week headlines from Kansas and Missouri iterated that point:
Whitmire's bill passed the Senate but, according to the Chron, the bill "faces a less-than-certain future in the House, partly because of its estimated $13 million cost, roughly twice the current budget" and partly because of how late we are in session, though as a Senate bill already in the House the legislation is pretty far along in the scheme of things. (Right now it needs a committee referral.) The status quo - with the only judge in the state authorized to hear the cases routinely disqualified for bias - cannot stand. I'd be surprised if some version of the bill doesn't pass.

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


Anonymous said...

'Then what'... your guess is as good as mine Grits... Maybe the ones that created this mess should be doing something about it. Surely they planned for over crowding. This IS 'lock 'em up and throw away the key Texas' isn't it. Are the ones that created this mess in hiding now? ANTI-SEX GRAND STANDERS WHERE ARE YOU WHEN WE DESPERATELY NEED YOU?

Anonymous said...

Contrary to popular opinion on this blog, there are plenty of hard core pedophiles who come out of TDCJ who are still a danger. I understand there's no fiscal note pertaining to the next child who gets molested by one of these offenders but without a doubt, there is a very real societal cost to that circumstance. We're not talking about reintegrating juvenile offenders into community based corrections facilities here. Some of those may be more at risk to reoffend than others. We're talking about offenders who have emphatically demonstrated their determination to reoffend. Whatever flaws may exist in the current civil commitment scheme, throwing the baby out with the bath water is not an option.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

And so, 3:30, what is your suggestion for resolving the issues with this dysfunctional program, besides the 19th century reference to not throwing babies out with bathwater?

DEWEY said...

The Astrodome is empty...... (Being sarcastic !!)

The Comedian said...

At present, a large number of sex offenders who may meet the criteria for civil commitment are being released without being evaluated because there is no room for their placement in the program if they are found to meet the criteria. So why bother to evaluate them?

Beginning this current fiscal year, the number of sex offenders being reviewed for possible evaluation remains the same, about 80 per month. However, the number who are actually referred for a civil commitment evaluation has dropped from an average of about 20+ per month to an average of 2-8 per month. Again, because there is no room for their placement under the present program.

As Grits stated, there is no room at present for newly released civilly committed offenders and those currently being held will soon be out on the street because no facility will accept them.

Actually, the home placement option under intense supervision was the original intent when the civil commitment law was passed in 1999. Halfway house placement did not begin until 2004, four years after the program was implemented. That is why it was originally hailed and advertised as an "outpatient program" designed to save money because the offenders would not be held in an institutional setting with all the expenses such a setting entails.

Anonymous said...

An asshole wrote: "Contrary to popular opinion on this blog"

Grits was way too kind in his reply (that will not get a reply due to the punk being on the net while at work and all).

3:30PM Go fuck yourself and the horse you rode in on homes. It had to said.

Anonymous said...

The Comedian (10:59) is on to something. The constitutionality of the Texas program, which provides significant criminal penalties for violating any requirement of civil commitment (a third degree felony, enhanced by inevitable prior convictions) was originally legally justified by the "outpatient" nature of the program. But the reality apparently hasn't matched the statutory ideal, which the cases upholding the constitutionality of the program depend on. Perhaps it is a "punitive" program after all (and thereby unconstitutional).

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