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The Source: Civil Commitment In Texas Changes, But Does It Go Far Enough?

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In Texas and many other states, violent sexual predators are civilly committed, They are held to a strict degree of participation in treatment programs, and housed in state-contracted halfway houses or jails. All of this after a person has served their sentence.

The straight-forward sounding program has proved to have a lot of problems in execution here in Texas. As Nancy Bunin, a Houston attorney who has worked on civil commitment and advocates for reform, points out in a blog post no one who had been considered for civil commitment has ever not been committed, and more importantly no one who has ever been civilly committed has ever been released from the program. According to Texas officials, the numbers that have been released from civil commitment is actually three, but only on judicial reversals. No one has successfully completed the program.

A laundry list of issues have been highlighted in the media. From the agency office being left in shambles by a previous director early last year, to violent sex offenders being banished from the state, to the constitutionality of the way the program is run, the states Violent Sex Offender program was in trouble going into the legislative session.

Minnesota's civil commitment program was recently found unconstitutional by federal court judge last week. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed the reform-minded SB 746 the same day. 

What will we see happen to the beleaguered office? Will the changes be enough?

Guest:

  • Mike Ward, Austin Bureau Chief for the Houston Chronicle
  • Nancy Bunin, Houston Defense Attorney who works on sex offender cases
  • Jessica Marsh, Office of Violent Sex Offender Management 
Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org and on Twitter at @paulflahive