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Families Protest Private Texas “Shadow Prisons” for Released Sex Offenders

by Jo Ellen Nott

On April 9, 2022, family members and friends of men held at the Civil Commitment Facility (CCF) in Littlefield, Texas, protested the injustices which occur within the razor-wire fences of the former prison. Decrying the state’s “failed sex offender treatment program,” the protestors called the operation a “shadow prison,” where their loved ones are held against their will despite completing their criminal sentences. 

In Texas, the Civil Commitment Office (TCCO) uses state courts to order sexual offenders who have served their sentences to participate in treatment programs designed to prevent relapse. The program, created in 1999 and reformed in 2015 by Gov. Greg Abbott (R), relies on private contractors to run the treatment centers. But as noted by KLBK in Lubbock, the “treatment program is not clearly defined by legislators, and it leaves room for interpretation.” 

Protestors and advocates challenge the so-called “pre-crime preventative detention” laws that authorize the program. They demand an end to what has become indefinite imprisonment.  During the April protest at CCF, Kevin Word of Texans Against Civil Commitment told KLBK that the group wants people “released [from treatment] after they’ve served their time.”

“Murderers are being let out,” Word pointed 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.”

The indefinite nature of the program also concerned protestor Linnell Hanks, mother of a man being held at CCF. “My son has been in Civil Commitment longer than he was in prison,” she said. “And he’s still at tier one. This is his seventh year in Texas Civil Commitment.”

Opponents and critics of the Civil Commitment Program point to the use of private detention facilities as creating a profit-centered motive to keep men confined indefinitely. TCCO entered a contract in April 2019 with Utah-based Management and Training Corp. (MTC) to run the sex-offender post-release treatment program for $6 million. The contract is for five years and is renewable is with two options to extend another two years each. 

KLBK also interviewed Nicole Robinson during the April protest. “They are being treated like animals,” said Robinson, whose son lives in the Littlefield facility. “They’re being taken advantage of, and they’re being used as [a pay] check.” Robinson claims that is why the center does not want them to reach the top “tire” – Tier 5 – and graduate back into the community.  

MTC has deep roots in the state, operating 11 prisons and state jails for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, as well as treatment programs in 19 facilities. 

Source:  A Just Future, MTC, TDCJ

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