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.