The state agency responsible for supervising, monitoring and providing treatment to sexually violent predators is facing a housing crisis, officials told state lawmakers on Wednesday.
The Office of Violent Sex Offender Management is out of space to house sex offenders being released from prison, agency officials told state lawmakers during a hearing of the House Appropriations subcommittee on health and human services.
“Everyone I’ve called, no one has come up with a building we can move into,” said Marsha McLane, executive director of the Office of Violent Sex Offender Management.
The agency was created by the Texas Legislature in 2011 to track sexually violent predators and provide them treatment through a civil commitment program in an effort to reduce the likelihood of repeated predatory behavior.
By state law, sexual predators are defined as individuals who have committed at least two sexually violent offenses and suffer from a “behavioral abnormality” that deems them a threat to society. When those individuals are released from prison, they can be ordered to enter the agency’s civil commitment program.
But contracts with the agency’s two largest housing vendors, which provide housing for 136 individuals, are set to expire this year, and the vendors have indicated they’re not planning to renew them.
The two housing vendors have stopped taking in new sex offenders and instructed the state to find other housing for its current tenants before Aug. 31.
McLane said the agency is scrambling because it does not have other housing facilities on hand and bids from other vendors have proved too expensive for the agency to afford with its current budget.
“I can call these people all day long, but I’m the executive director of a tiny agency,” McLane said about her inability to find additional facilities for the agency. She said she had asked state leaders for assistance, and they had assured her "they're looking."
Further complicating the housing troubles is the 100 new sex offenders the agency is anticipating it will take in over the next two years at an increased cost. To keep up with that growth, the agency is asking lawmakers to appropriate $11.4 million in additional funds to their 2016-17 budget.
State Rep. Sarah Davis, a Republican from West University Place, said she was sure the Legislature would be willing to put up as many dollars as needed to fix "this mess" if it means keeping these individuals off the streets.
“I feel shocked in a lot of ways about this,” Davis said.