Most of you, my readers, know by now what civil commitment truly is so I will not go into detail but tell you of my husband’s and my personal experiences that we have and are living with at this time. You may want to refer to some of my earlier blogs to refresh your memory or learn more about the subject.
In 1999, Texas jumped on the merging bandwagon of civil commitment. At that time the theory and the practice more closely resembled the law for rehabilitation. Sex offenders committed to the civil commitment program had the choice to live at home or in a halfway house and receive outpatient treatment, attend management classes for anger, substance abuse or any other classes deemed necessary by the court. Most of the offenders were on parole and required to wear a GPS tracker. My husband was one of these men able to live at home, be employed, attend church and to be supported in his treatments.
Sixteen (16) years after Texas began its’ civil commitment program changes were established because the men were scattered across the state and not one man had successfully completed the program and re-entered the community. The changes were brought about after an investigation into a poorly managed and ineffective program. Today’s program is as much a failure as in the past and maybe even more so for the lack of medical care and the essentials necessary to thrive.
In 2008 Michael Seiler was appointed by then Governor Rick Perry to be the only Judge of the only Court to hear sex offender civil commitment cases in Texas.
My husband was paroled in 2013 and placed into civil commitment. Less than 100 days after being paroled he was brought back into court and ordered to be sent to a halfway house as were other men living in the community. My husband was taken immediately from the court, put on a bus and delivered to El Paso, Texas. He was transported from South Texas to more than halfway across the state of Texas. This was in September and in November the nightly temperatures in El Paso, Texas drops below freezing and the days barely warm up to a moderate temperature, my husband asked his case manager for a warm coat. Her answer to him was “you will get a coat when I feel like you have earned it.” My husband tried for days to compensate then finally called home to request a coat. His phone call was recorded, and he was pulled into the case manager’s office to explain the call. After he made the explanation, the case manager called the El Paso County Sheriff to come and pick up my husband and he was charged with a felony. She had the right to do this as all sex offenders sent to the halfway houses were required to sign a contract stating that if they violated a house rule, they would automatically be charged with a felony. The house rules numbered over 100.
My husband was extradited back to the only county and judge handling civil commitment cases. He sat in the county jail for over two months awaiting another hearing. At the hearing the Judge found him guilty of a violation of a civil commitment rule for which he received another eight years in the state penitentiary. At this time my husband had been removed from parole as he had discharged his sex offense prison mandated sentence. Technically he was a free man. His new sentence started in 2014.
Within the next two years the Texas State Supreme Court found that sending a man back to prison for rule breaking unconstitutional. The men sent to prison for rule breaking were given an opportunity to appeal with the result being that of being sent to the Texas Civil Commitments Center in Littlefield, Texas. My husband and 96 other men chose to serve their time in the state prison rather than appeal the conviction. This was due to the fact that the GEO run Correct Care Solutions had horrific stories of abuse, mistreatment, and other tales of malfeasance circulating.
Management and Training Corp (MTC) took over the operation of the Texas Civil Commitment Center in 2019. There is little change in the type of operation of this also for profit prison operator. There are staff shortages, staff on resident abuse, assaults, medical neglect, and common disrespect for human dignity and life.
My husband has been fortunate in the treatment he has received since arriving in Littlefield. He is over the average age of 57 and is more interested in trying to work his way home than dealing with or starting a battle of wits with the staff and security. This is not to say that he has escaped all mistreatment. His first evening at the unit, he made the mistake of calling one of the security staff “boss man” as was required in prison. Another officer intervened and informed his co-worker that my husband had only just arrived and had not yet been to orientation and made aware of the rules and policies of the unit.
This is not to say that there haven’t been small skirmishes since that day. The security officers have been told in training, that these men are less than human and should be treated as such. I live in fear every hour that one of the officers or staff may assault my husband or worse. He has medical problems but at this point in time they are being taken care of. He is one of the few men receiving medical treatment. The majority of the men who make a complaint of illness are told to take a Tylenol and go back to their cell. Due to this inconsistence treatment there have been men who went back to their cells only to die. Earlier this year there was a resident with a pacemaker who made a request to have his pacemaker battery recharged. To recharge a pacemaker necessitates going to a hospital. He was refused by the medical staff, told that they could not afford to take him, and sent back to his cell where he passed away because of heart failure due to an insufficiently charged battery.
For the first year of my husband’s incarceration at this unit there were no therapy classes being held and no one-on-one therapy sessions. There were two reasons for this situation. The first being lack of staff and the second was the spreading of Covid-19. By the grace of God my husband had his Covid shot and boosters up to date. He had received his shots and boosters while in the state prison.
In the past few weeks, the third Chief of Therapy and numerous therapists have left the employment at MTC due to the lack of moral ethics and refusal to let them give the treatment mandated by the court.
Men are being held in segregation in violation of state law. The isolation is named erroneously Safety Management Unit. The SMU is meant to hold someone who is acting out, having a mental break or being aggressive. The time limit in isolation was set up to only be up to 72 hours. Isolation is not meant to be jail time. Unfortunately, there over a year and are still being held there. MTC is not allowed to have a jail and there are no jail standards for this unit. There are no certified jailers among the staff or security officers. SMU as it now are men being placed into isolation and held for more than ninety days and then receiving extensions to that time limit. There are men who have been in isolation for stands flies in the face of the State laws. There have been numerous attempts to obtain the State of Texas attention to what is happening at this facility.
An additional problem is a recurring one of being demoted in a tier level progress for any reason that a therapist, staff, or administration deem necessary as punishment or retaliation. There has been an incident reported of a resident who had reached a top level only to have a security officer (SO) make a report that the man used profanity toward him. The resident was punished by being lowered in his progress thereby not allowing him the opportunity to be conditionally released into the community or return home to a waiting family. After receiving the punishment, the resident went back to his living quarters and hung himself. During the investigation it was found that the resident had not used profanity and the report was erroneously made because the SO had a personal problem with the resident and retaliated against the man.
The men must battle daily with psychological warfare. When requested to report on another resident, refusal to do so can earn the resident a drop in tier level as well as other types of harassment and punishment. Residents of this establishment must cope with the derogatory attitudes of the SO’s, staff, administration and volunteer workers who come in everyday with the knowledge that they are able to mistreat the residents without the possibility of consequences.
My husband and I live with the knowledge that no matter how hard he strives to prove himself ready to come home, he could have to start anew at any time. Sometimes the resident will be held back in progress because his case manager or therapist has changed, and the process must begin again. This type of shortage is only part of the lack of progress and failure of the civil commitment program. The men may only be released once the therapist, case manager, Chief of Therapist agree that a review can be held to determine the mental status of the resident. Should the resident make it through to the next review then the head of the Texas Civil Commitment Center Office must sign off on the release. This person has not signed a release from Civil Commitment for any resident. She has signed a few conditional releases letting the men work and live in the community. This individual was once married to a man who during the marriage was convicted of child molestation. This woman has made it very apparent that she is biased toward the sex offender and has no conscience toward warehousing the offenders for the rest of their lives and with little attention to their physical well being or mental health. In the passing of time, she has given herself two large raises in five years, bringing her annual salary to over $240,000. Her raises are the result of saving money by providing medical neglect, not paying vendors for services, serving inadequate meals, and sanctions against the operators of the unit for staff shortages.
This type of saving money constitutes theft no matter what is said in an attempt to justify fraud.
An additional cost-saving measure for MTC is to require those residents receiving support to provide their own bed linens, personal hygiene, civilian clothing including any special apparel i.e.: winter coat, gloves, exercise clothing and non-perishables to eat. Because there are families and those who care about the resident, this cost to them often works a hardship, especially for people who live on a fixed income. Trying to provide phone service and a trust fund along with the necessities is as stressful for those on the outside as the loved one on the inside. There are residents who are allowed t.v.’s, game equipment, Bluetooth players, and streaming devices. If one of these residents should receive severe punishment, he could be forced to give up these entertainment devices. They are to be placed in a locker until such time as the resident has served his punishment sentence. On occasion there have been incidents where the equipment has unexplainably been lost or mysteriously disappeared.
To be able to visit with my husband on a Saturday or Sunday or both days, I must call the unit administration office on Monday and ask permission to visit. I am told that I will receive an answer about the visit between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon. There have been a few occurrences when I had to call the unit on Friday morning to see if my visit was allowed. Once I was told I would have to wait until Friday afternoon because the person doing the vetting of the visitor requests had not finished his work. I was notified at almost 4 o’clock on Friday afternoon that I would be allowed to visit for four hours. I drive three hours one way for the visit and afterwards must drive back home for another three hours. Very few men who are housed in this unit have in-house visits due to the distance families and loved ones must travel across the state. The town only has two motels, both of which charge exorbitant fees because they can. I am grateful that I am able to make the trip in one day. To have a visit most of the residents have to settle for a zoom type of visit on a tablet. The resident must come to the visiting area to have the tablet visit. Visits in person or by tablet are monitored by a security officer.
This week I learned that the operator of this Shadow Prison has made new limitations on the length of time and the frequency of visits to the law library and the use of telephones by the residents particularly the residents from SMU. These rules have yet to be posted in public places within the unit or added to the handbook of rules and regulations for the residents. This is a common practice at the unit to make rules on the spot to satisfy the need of the person writing a disciplinary against a resident or for retaliation purposes.
The only way to correct the deficiencies of the civil commitment centers in the 20 states is for the public to awaken to what is actually happening and not the window dressing of the legislatures, the investors, and media with their own agendas. If only one person dares to stand then eventually others will also stand. It is never too late to be the strong one to stand against an injustice. I ask you to stand with me in this fight ” encourage others to also become a part of making the public aware of a serious wrong. “Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek” Barack Obama.
Thank you for your time and I hope that you find it in your heart to speak out against this violation of human dignity or any other injustice that is being hidden and denied.