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Any criminal defense lawyer in San Antonio should be appalled that the failing program is allowing unsupervised sex-offenders safe harbor in Bexar County

When stories like this one are released, it’s probably not unreasonable for something like this to be your first reaction: sexual predators released from prison without any supervision is a somewhat harrowing thought for families in the community. But for someone working with these offenders like a lawyer in San Antonio, where one of the offenders has been released to and is now living, the story has much deeper implications for justice, corrections, and legal rights of convicted criminals.

What happened that more than one of the state’s violent pedophiles were able to slip through the system of protective programs designed to keep Texas’ communities safe? Apparently much of it has to do with the program known as “civil commitment,” which identifies at-risk sex-offenders prior to their release and evaluates them for continued confinement in the form of treatment if a judge determines them to be a danger to the community.

But for the few who slipped through the cracks, “those proceedings never took place amid a backlog of cases in the Montgomery County court of state Judge Michael Seiler, who was recently stripped by lawmakers of his authority over all Texas’ civil commitments after being reprimanded by a state judicial commission over perceived bias against these offenders and their attorneys.” With comments about “castration from the neck up,” for the “psychopaths,” any lawyer in San Antonio might have been able to identify the Judge’s comments as inappropriate, and complaints that Seiler “belittled the offenders’ attorneys” resulted in a judicial reprimand.

So sex-offenders slated for the civil commitment hearings with upcoming releases began to ask their lawyer in San Antonio or Houston or wherever else to “file for a recusal hearing whenever Sieler is the sitting judge” at the suggestion of the head of the state office that provides attorneys for indigent offenders in these proceedings. Which has slowed things down quite a bit.

But Texas doesn’t want to keep offenders past their official release dates—that’s seen as almost as dangerous to the state as sex-offenders on the loose are to the community. Wracking up huge restitution and compensation payments for every day that an offender is kept past his release date, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice would rather just let the guys out scot-free than keep them inside at an exorbitant cost to the taxpayers.

Meanwhile then, how should a lawyer in San Antonio evaluate the situation as far as it relates to the conflicting interests of offenders receiving a fair hearing and children in his community who may be at risk? It obviously depends on who his client is, but for now, it doesn’t look like there are simple answers.

Perhaps the most telling thing about this civil commitment program for sex-offenders is that although it’s designed to rehabilitate and then provide supervised release to the felons after a two year period that concludes with a treatment review, “none of the 369 offenders who were civilly committed have ever graduated.” So who is it that doesn’t trust these “rehabilitated” offenders—only Judge Seiler? Or Texas, too?

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