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TX: Weekend Read: They served their prison sentences, but they’re still locked up

[splcenter.org]

Jason Schoenfeld already served a full prison sentence, but he’s back behind bars — not because of what he’s done, but because of what the state of Texas says he might do.

Schoenfeld entered a detention center in Littlefield, Texas more than two years ago. Located in a remote corner of the Texas Panhandle, it was once a prison and currently houses a rehabilitation program for men like Schoenfeld who have committed sex offenses.

Schoenfeld used to attend therapy sessions every two weeks. They’ve slowed to once every three months. He is not free to seek therapy elsewhere. He is not free to leave.

That would be unconstitutional were it not for a process called civil commitment. States can’t imprison people who they believe “constitute a real, continuing, and serious danger to society,” but as the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1997, they can confine them in order to treat them.

Texas says it’s treating Schoenfeld and the 200 other men confined in Littlefield. But in almost 30 years, only five men have been released from the program. Four of those were set free only because they needed medical care.

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Join the discussion

  1. Chris F

    This is a tougher battle than registries, because at least they had a trial to determine their level of dangerousness.

    SCOTUS just recently said it wouldn’t hear a similar case, so the ruling stands that it’s ok to civilly commit someone with the stated reason for treatment and potential release, but the state doesn’t actually have to treat or release them:

    https://wtop.com/congress/2017/10/supreme-court-wont-hear-minnesota-sex-offender-case/

    Not until one of these cases is ruled in another district as unconstitutional will it create the district conflict needed to get SCOTUS to take the case.

    I thought there was already precedent where the government couldn’t use the excuse that it lacked the funds to fulfill its obligations at the expense of it’s citizens liberty, but I guess that’s not true now.

  2. mike r

    It has to be an as applied challenge other wise all it’s going to do is create bad precedents.

  3. JM of Wi.

    The reality of this in America is horrifying.
    It makes registering not feel so nightmarish.
    But then, the registry breeds these horrors.

  4. totally against public registry

    It’s hard to believe that our country is capable of doing such injustices…
    No innocent citizen should be locked up after they serve their sentence. It is unconstitutional! But, no one cares about these citizens. They have no voice. Our California civil commitment of innocent citizens just went through a horrifying injustice, where these so called “free citizens” lost their right to have any electronics/computers and access to the outside world.

    We need someone to fight for these men’s rights

    • David Kennerly, Bull-Splatter Analyst

      The first step is to make people aware of their predicament. This organization is now fighting for them and helping to raise such awareness.

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