Editorials

Sex offender program needs a major overhaul

For 15 years Texas has run a “treatment” program for sex offenders that apparently has been a failure, because the only thing it seems to have accomplished is keeping individuals confined.

Of course, many think that is what it was designed to do in the first place.

In 1999 the state came up with a “civil commitment” process whereby a person who had served his time for a sex crime conviction could continue to be held under supervision — without being reintegrated into society — for treatment until a judge ordered otherwise.

The problem is, of the more than 380 who have been in the program for the last 15 years, none has successfully completed it, according to the court.

Star-Telegram reporter Mitch Mitchell told the story Wednesday of a 40-year-old man who actually may be the first to graduate from this treatment program.

E. Games, who was convicted of two rapes, is the first to be allowed to live independently, although he still has to wear a GPS monitor and get the approval of a case manager to leave his house.

Texas is one of 20 states and the District of Columbia that use the civil commitment procedure to continue punishing convicted sex offenders who are determined (through legal proceedings) of having a “behavior abnormality” that makes them more likely to commit violent sexual crimes in the future.

This state’s program is the only one designed as an “outpatient” program.

That’s a misnomer because offenders are required to stay in halfway houses and other facilities away from their homes.

The Legislature has passed a bill, in conference now, that some say would improve the procedure.

Senate Bill 746 calls for offenders to begin the treatment program in total confinement.

Supporters of change, such as Democratic state Sen. John Whitmire of Houston, think that process will help combat the fear in communities where halfway houses are located.

Offenders would be moved to less restrictive settings after successfully completing the treatment.

But that still poses a problem.

Whether confined or in an “outpatient” setting, there is no hope for the ex-convict if he’s never permitted to graduate from a treatment program.

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