May 4th 2012
Texas Approach to Sexual Predators
Numerous states have enacted statutes focusing on the civil commitment of sexually violent predators. The Texas statute, like many others, calls for the involuntary commitment of those with a mental abnormality specifically in Texas, a behavioral abnormality who are likely to engage in predatory acts of sexual violence. All of these states, except Texas, have passed legislation creating inpatient treatment for those persons committed. Texas, instead, has focused exclusively on the use of outpatient treatment and supervision as an alternative to the route of inpatient commitment. This essay is focused on the development and implementation of the Texas statute with an emphasis on forensic assessment, expert testimony, and risk assessment.
The civil commitment of sexually violent predators remains controversial within forensic psychiatry and psychology. Despite the controversy, legislatures across the United States have enacted statutes calling for the civil commitment of those individuals who have a history of sexual offenses who also suffer from mental or behavioral abnormalities. All of the states but Texas call for inpatient commitment in secure facilities. Texas, in contrast, has focused on an outpatient commitment model.
Texas is notorious for its tough-on-crime approach, especially for sex offenses. Lawmakers passed a law in 2007 that allowed the death penalty for certain repeat child sex offenders. But the U.S. Supreme Court overturned that provision in 2008. In this latest effort to crack down on sex offenders, Perry says he wants special teams to arrest sex offenders who violate their probation and electronic monitoring of high-risk sex offenders. Here's the whole list of initiatives Perry proposed today: The OAG, Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), Texas Department of Criminal Justice(TDCJ) and local law enforcement will work together to create Sex Offender Parole Violation Apprehension Teams, which will arrest high-risk sex offenders who have violated parole. These teams will coordinate with local law enforcement to conduct additional registration compliance checks on predatory, high-risk sex offenders. A $1.7 million grant from the Governor’s Criminal Justice Division (CJD) to help TDCJ actively monitor all high-risk sex offenders on parole with tracking technology. A pledge to work with lawmakers during the upcoming session to pass legislation allowing prosecutors to seek life without parole for repeat offenders convicted of sexual assault or aggravated sexual assault. While Jessica’s Law provides this option to prosecutors for repeat predators of children, Gov. Perry is proposing it be expanded to include those who target adults. The governor also is proposing legislation requiring the active monitoring of high-risk sex offenders using tracking technology as part of the sex offenders and requiring all high-risk registered sex offenders who have served their entire prison sentence be actively monitored for three years upon release from prison. Encouraging governors across the country to enter into reciprocal agreements on sex offender registration to prevent individuals from circumventing sex offender registration laws by moving from one state to another. The governor also tasked DPS with providing recommendations to the Legislature on how to close loopholes related to out-of-state sex offenders.
A bill on death penalty for repeated child sex offenders was given preliminary approval by Texas House of Representatives. The bill is called Jessica's Law, after a nine-year old Florida girl who was raped and murdered by John Couey, who had a prior history of sexual assault on minors. Jessica's law is intended to crack down on sexual offenders who continually repeat the crime. With this...