Protestors make alarming allegations about statewide sex offender treatment program in Littlefield

By Elizabeth Fitz

LITTLEFIELD, Texas – Protestors gathered in front of the Civil Commitment Facility in Littlefield on Saturday morning to shine a light on the injustices they said are happening within the barbed-wire fences of the former prison.

Texas created the Civil Commitment Program in 1999; like 20 other states, this kind of program allows state agencies to mandate sex offenders, who have already served their time in prison, to partake in treatment programs intended to mitigate possible reoffending in the future.

In 2015, Governor Abbott reformed the program and worked with private contractors to set up a treatment facility in Littlefield, but the advocates said the program isn’t doing what it was created to do.

Protestors told KLBK News that they believe residents’ civil rights have been violated.

VIDEO:  https://www.everythinglubbock.com/news/protestors-make-alarming-allegations-about-statewide-sex-offender-treatment-program-in-littlefield/

“We don’t support anyone committing crimes- I want to make that clear. This is supporting people being released [from treatment] after they’ve served their time,” said Kevin Word with Texans Against Civil Commitment.

According to its website, “The Texas Civil Commitment Office is a small state agency tasked with providing intensive supervision and treatment to sexually violent predators.”

The agency said it focuses on public safety, supervision and treatment, but protestors argued that the program is a for-profit scheme by private groups.

“Murderers are being let out. They’re not being post-convicted and held because they might do something. That’s why these men are here- because they might do something,” Word said.

The treatment program is not clearly defined by legislators and it leaves room for interpretation. Because of this, family members with loved ones in the facility said there’s no telling when these individuals will be released.

“My son has been in Civil Commitment longer than he was in prison. And he’s still at tier one. This is his seventh year in Texas Civil Commitment,” said Linnell Hanks, mother of a Civil Commitment resident.

The treatment program consists of five tiers which residents must complete before being released.

However, protestors said that’s an insurmountable task when punishments for breaking arbitrary rules can and have caused residents to move back a tier in their treatment.

“The program has released less than six [residents] since 2015 and there have been 29 that have died in the facility. Medical care is non-existent,” Word explained, adding these individuals were originally in a successful, outpatient program before the facility opened.

TCCO said in a statement to KLBK News today that these allegations are not true and said 13 people have been released from the program since 2016 and only three “sexually violent predators have passed away.”

After the story aired on Monday, several people reached out to KLBK’s newsroom claiming TCCO’s statement is false. They said they can prove 29 people have died, along with several other allegations, but these claims have not yet been substantiated.

Nicole Robinson has a son living in the Littlefield facility, which is why she attended the protest. She said, “They’re supposed to be residents and they’re not being treated like that. They are being treated like animals. They’re being taken advantage of and they’re being used as a check.”

She’s not the only person who told KLBK News that profit is standing in the way of justice.

“That’s the reason why they don’t want them to graduate… because when they graduate, they have to have enough guys to cycle them out in order for them to keep getting they check,” Robinson explained.

Some protestors and organizations, like Families Against Committing Texans Standup (F.A.C.T.S.) and Texans Against Civil Commitment, said they are calling for reform.

Others are “advocating to shut down this program,” said Jennifer Williams, whose son remains in the facility.

“I’m asking Senator [John] Whitmire to come and shut it down like he promised to do in 2015 when he walked through these walls and said, ‘if it doesn’t work, I’m going to shut it down…’” Williams tearfully expressed. “These are free men. They’ve done their time.”

However, protestors said they feel this program is a continuation of these offenders’ time in prison.

TCCO sent KLBK News a statement “in reference to a public awareness event conducted outside of the Texas Civil Commitment Center (TCCC) located in Littlefield, TX.”

The statement regarding TCCC and its “clients” who reside at the facility reads:

“The individuals who reside at TCCC are civilly committed sexually violent predators.  A sexually violent predator, by definition, is a repeat sexually violent offender who suffers from a behavioral abnormality that makes the sexually violent predator likely to engage in repeated, predatory acts of sexual violence.  Sexually violent predator civil commitment is governed by Chapter 841 of the Texas Health and Safety Code. 

Pursuant to Section 841.001 of the Texas Health and Safety Code, the Legislature found in part:

  • That a small but extremely dangerous group of sexually violent predators exists and that those predators have a behavioral abnormality that is not amenable to traditional mental illness treatment modalities and that makes the predators likely to engage in repeated predatory acts of sexual violence.
  • That treatment modalities for sexually violent predators are different from the traditional treatment modalities for persons appropriate for involuntary commitment under Subtitle C, Title 7.
  • That a civil commitment procedure for the long-term supervision and treatment of sexually violent predators is necessary and in the interest of the state.”

TCCO added that it is “responsible for providing appropriate and necessary treatment and supervision for committed persons through the case management system and developing and implementing a sex offender treatment program for sexually violent predators committed under Chapter 841 of the Texas Health and Safety Code. Chapter 841 further requires TCCO to implement a tiered treatment program.”

You can find a summary of TCCO and the tiered treatment program online, “which include general information regarding the commitment process as well as statistical information concerning the sexually violent predators supervised by TCCO.”

The statement continued, “One issue raised by Attorney Ryan Brown consists of questions regarding sex offender treatment during COVID-19 related quarantines.  The COVID protocols utilized at the TCCC can be found in the COVID-19 resources section on TCCO’s website: https://tcco.texas.gov/resources.”

Regarding the 29 possible deaths and five completions of the program, TCCO said, “While any loss of life is a tragedy, this assertion is not correct.  Rather, three sexually violent predators have passed away at the TCCC … Since 2016, thirteen people have been released from the Texas Civil Commitment Center – nine of whom have been released off of civil commitment by their court of commitment.  In sum, thirteen people have been fully released from civil commitment from 2016 to present.”

TCCO’s reported statistics as of April 11, 2022:
• 552 total civilly committed sex offenders from 112 counties: 111 in prison and 437 in the community.
100% are male.
• 13 SVPs that no longer had the behavioral abnormality that qualified them for commitment have been
released by the court. Four SVPs are in Tier 5 independent living in the community. Two additional
SVPs were in Tier 5 but were moved back to the confined facility for more intensive supervision and
treatment due to regressions in their treatment and/or behavior.
• Age range is 24 to 91 years old with an average age of 56.78 years.
• Population is 54.74% Caucasian, 25.00% African-American, 19.89% Hispanic, 0.18% Native
American and 0.18% other.
• 65% of SVPs have only child victims, 17.5% have only adult victims and 17.5% have both adult and
child victims.

This is a developing story. If you have any information or supporting documentation related to the Civil Commitment program and facility in Littlefield, please email Elizabeth Fitz at [email protected].

Source:  https://www.everythinglubbock.com/news/protestors-make-alarming-allegations-about-statewide-sex-offender-treatment-program-in-littlefield/

 

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