Capstone Project: Sex Offender Therapy in the State of Texas

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Therapy

SEX OFFENDER THERAPY IN THE STATE OF TEXAS

Sex offender

SEX OFFENDER THERAPY IN THE STATE OF TEXAS

A sex offender is generally understood as an individual who has committed what is considered to be a sex crime. However, one also has to bear in mind that what constitutes a sex crime varies according to culture and region. The region that will be the focus in this paper is the State of Texas.

As Hazelwood and Warren ( 2000) state in their study of sex offenders and criminal sexual behavior, sex offences are an extremely complex form of human behavior which includes the intricate area of human sexuality as well as the areas of mental disorder and criminality (Hazelwood and Warren, 2000, p. 267). The authors note that,

A central and continuously complicating aspect is the changing and evolving nature of human and sexual behavior, which makes it very 'fluid'. This means that sexually violent behavior includes a variety of interconnected and disparate sexual crimes, from the physically violent to the non-physically violent.

(Hazelwood and Warren, 2000. P. 267)

This stresses the fact that rehabilitation and treatment can be fundamentally important factors in reducing the incidence of this form of crime and particularly in reducing the high recidivism rate of this type of crime.

It is also important to note at the outset that the Texas Legislature enacted a number of measures in 2007 which "…severely increased the punishment for sex offenders" (TEXAS STIFFENS PUNISHMENT FOR SEX OFFENDERS). One of those measures makes "…second convictions for first-degree "sexually violent offenses" involving victims 14 years of age or younger a capital crime punishable by death or life without parole" (TEXAS STIFFENS PUNISHMENT FOR SEX OFFENDERS).

Furthermore and prior to this legislation, only certain categories of murder were assigned the death penalty in the state. One of these was "….murder committed during the commission of an aggravated sexual assault" (TEXAS STIFFENS PUNISHMENT FOR SEX OFFENDERS). It is also important to note that under Texas law and the Texas Civil Commitment of Sexually Violent Predators Act (TCCSVPA) some categories of repeat sex offenders face additional sanctions after being released from prison. These include the allowance for "…"sexually violent offenders," who suffer from a behavioral abnormality that makes them likely to engage in sexual violence, to be committed through the courts to outpatient treatment and supervision" (TEXAS STIFFENS PUNISHMENT FOR SEX OFFENDERS).

In terms of the Texas Civil Commitment of sexually Violent Predators Act these offenders are also subject to intensive treatment regimens and programs, as well as limitations such as GPS tracking, housing and transportation restrictions, and the forced exclusion from child safety zones. They may also have to undergo polygraph examinations and substance use tests (TEXAS STIFFENS PUNISHMENT FOR SEX OFFENDERS). These restrictions also include the following:

requiring the person to reside in a Texas residential facility under contract with the council or at another location or facility approved by the council;

prohibiting the person's contact with a victim or potential victim of the person;

prohibiting the person's possession or use of alcohol, inhalants, or a controlled substance;

requiring the person's participation in and compliance with a specific course of treatment;

requiring the person to notify the case manager immediately but in any event within 24 hours of any change in the person's status that affects proper treatment and supervision, including a change in the person's physical health or job status and including any incarceration of the person.

(TEXAS STIFFENS PUNISHMENT FOR SEX OFFENDERS)

Consequently, it is clear that the Texas law takes a strict and stringent view with regard to the punishment of sex offenders in the state. However, the concomitant question that is often asked in the literature is whether there are also equally intensive rehabilitation and treatment programs or programs that can prevent or reduce recidivism rates among these types of prisoners?

It must be remembered and emphasized that sexual crimes are abhorred not only by the society and public at large but also within the confines of the prison system. As a result the sexual offenders are usually housed separately due to the strong prejudice against them from the prison population. This has ramifications for treatment, rehabilitation and recidivism. It is obviously more problematic to rehabilitate and treat an offender who has become alienated and marginalized from the society as well as from the general prison population.

A contention that will be explored in this paper is that present treatment and rehabilitation process and facilities in Texas are not adequate to deal with the complex and difficult area of sex offender rehabilitation. This assertion will be tested against the facts gleaned from official reports and documentation as well as from article and studies on the subject.

These and other questions will be addressed in the overview of the literature that will form the body of this paper. These include questions such as the following: what is the size of the sex offender population in Texas; what rehabilitation services are available to sex offenders in Texas prisons; what rehabilitation services are available to sex offenders when they are released from Texas prisons; what is their rate of recidivism; what factors contribute to successful or unsuccessful rehabilitation of sex offenders in Texas and what reforms should be instituted in the Texas prison system to reduce the dangers posed by sex offenders to society?

2. Demographics of Sex Offenders in Texas

There is a registration provision that prisoners returning to society have to undergo in Texas as well as in other States. This process is outlined in a government document entitled SEX OFFENDER REGISTRATION: National Requirements and State Registries (1966). According to the Sex offender legislation "Sex offenders released from incarceration are required to register their addresses, along with other identifying information, with their resident state's law…" (SEX OFFENDER REGISTRATION: National Requirements and State Registries, 1966). The Jacob Wetterling Act ( 1994) requires all those sex offenders that have been released from incarceration to register with law enforcement, as well as requiring them to verify their address annually to the officials (SEX OFFENDER REGISTRATION: National Requirements and State Registries,1966). Furthermore, " All 50 states require sex offenders to register" and " Almost all states maintain a central registry of resident sex offenders"(SEX OFFENDER REGISTRATION: National Requirements and State Registries,1966).

These laws have made estimating the number of sexual offenders and the particular demographics of this category of offence, a more precise activity. This can be seen in the way that more correct measures and statistics have been made in recent years about offenders in states like Texas. According to a 1966 report Texas had a total of 17,555 sex offenders (SEX OFFENDER REGISTRATION: National Requirements and State Registries). Before the registration Act there had been no definitive means of ascertaining the number of sexual offenders in the state.

As an article entitled TEXAS STIFFENS PUNISHMENT FOR SEX OFFENDERS notes, "Several years ago Texas had 9,000 sex offenders who had committed crimes against children in its prison system. The vast majority of those offenders will be, or have been, released because they secured favorable plea bargains from prosecutors" (TEXAS STIFFENS PUNISHMENT FOR SEX OFFENDERS). However, this number has increased considerably in the state. This is possibly due to the increased legal restrictions and the fact that all offenders have to be registered.

According to some of the latest research there are more than sixty thousand sex offenders in the State of Texas. A useful study in this regard is Sex offender list in the middle of a showdown. In this article the author, Heather Cargyle, states that Texas has the "…second-largest sex offender database in the nation, with 63,000 men and women registered " ( Cargyle, 2011). This article provides a wealth of detail and opinion on this sensitive topic.

There are many websites and online databases that provide verified data and information on this aspect. A site such as Track Sex Offenders is, for example, extremely helpful in determining the number and demographics of sex offenders in the area. According to this site there were 54402 sexual offenders in the state in 2009. This is divided into counties, with the ten counties with the most sex offenders as follows: Harris; Dallas; Bexar; Travis; Collin; Hidalgo; Denton; Fort Bend; Tarrant and El Paso (Track Sex Offenders). The cities with the highest sex offender rates included Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Austin, El Paso, Arlington and Corpus Christi ( Track Sex Offenders).

These figures are supported by other data and resources: for example, the Texas City, TX Crime Rates & Sex Offenders Report states that are a total of 58,781 sex offenders in Texas. This yields a total of 274 sex offenders in Texas per 100,000 residents, which is 42% greater than the national average (Texas City, TX Crime Rates & Sex Offenders Report).This is an extremely high figure above the national average and tends to bolster the case for a greater focus on pre and past incarceration rehabilitation and possibly on factors… [END OF PREVIEW]

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