Texas Civil Commitment Center

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Texas Civil Commitment Center (Littlefield site, 2021)

The Texas Civil Commitment Center is a private prison facility for "sexually violent predators" in the isolated fields outside of Littlefield, Texas. The center is one of the better publicized examples of a nationwide phenomenon, in which a mixture of genuinely violent and innocuous elderly sexual deviants are detained for life. As their detainment is officially for the purposes of "treatment" (which is designed such that it can never be completed), it remains constitutional. Facilities such as this typically swell in size, becoming "human storage facilities" supporting hive workforces that must in-turn be sustained by ever-expanding budgets.

Since 2021, various stories about the mistreatment of inmates at this facility have emerged - most concerningly pointing towards "waged slavery"[1] and financial exploitation. By the very nature of civil commitment, very few of the inmates - average age almost 60, will ever be able to leave. Former staffers, including guards have testified publicly, bringing the center to the attention of SOL Reform organisations.[2] For example, in an article by Reason:

"For many men serving time for committing sex offenses in Texas, their prison term never really ends—even if they complete their sentence. That's because they're required to enter a live-in mental health facility before returning to society. [...] Originally called clients or residents when the center opened in 2015, the men have been re-labeled "inmates" since Management and Training Corporation, a private prison company, took over in 2019. "MTC does not run it in a therapeutic manner whatsoever," says Mandi Harner, a former security officer at the facility who was fired for having a relationship with one of the residents. "They run it like a prison. I'm not going to tell you everyone in there is an angel. But there are some men who deserve treatment they're not getting, and also some who did things as teenagers who don't deserve to be there their whole lives." [...]
There is only one way to get out of Littlefield: The men must work their way up through four tiers of treatment before they are allowed to petition for their freedom. The therapeutic techniques sound hodge-podge. The inmates "have to admit to all of their offenses and share it with the group," said one of the founders of Texans Against Civil Commitment (TACC), a former Littlefield therapist who writes under the name 'Murphy' and who claims to have been fired for not seeing "eye to eye" with management. "And they have to keep a masturbation log so the therapist knows how often they're masturbating and what they're masturbating about. So she knows whether it's healthy or whether it's deviant." The men must also record whether or not they climaxed. These logs are read aloud in group therapy. [...] The prison also employs polygraphs and penile plethysmography, measuring changes to the circumference or volume of the penis as the men watch and listen to different stimuli. When an inmate moves up a tier, which can take a year, he can find himself demoted for many reasons, including very small infractions. One man who had been at Littlefield for years and made it through all four tiers was finally about to get his release hearing. But he did something wrong—rumor had it he swore at a guard—and was knocked back down to tier 1, where he would have to start anew, according to Murphy. He went to his cell and hanged himself. A former Littlefield guard I'll call Frank—who says he quit but wants to stay in corrections and fears retaliation—said this wasn't the only tragedy he had witnessed there. Another man, he said, castrated himself. [...]
Until recently, inmates also had to pay a 33 percent tax on any packages they got, further isolating them from any support system they might have on the outside. For instance, if family members sent a pair of jeans and three boxes of Chips Ahoy, they would have to document what it cost and pay another 33 percent to the prison. "One of our members during COVID-19 sent her son a package of masks and they were valued at $20," says Molnar. "She had to pay 33 percent on top of that to send him those masks." That rule was just changed, most likely as a result of pressure from TACC. Now prisoners have to pay a 25 percent fee on any money sent to them from someone other than their spouse, according to Molnar." [...] Civil commitment is by no means confined to Texas, and Littlefield's status as a privately operated facility is hardly the main issue. The problem is bad laws, as well as court decisions that have upheld them: More than 6,000 people are confined under civil commitment in 21 states."[3]

The Houston Chronicle (who exposed similar flaws in the Texas treatment program in 2014)[4] pointed to the intransigence of administration, in detaining inmates beyond completion of their training. According to one therapist:

"Every time we as therapists felt someone was ready to go, to move into the community, the administrative side came back with more requirements, to hold them longer."[5]

At the point the previous article was written, of the 552 men who’ve entered the program, 10 haved been sprung — the same number who have died in secured nursing homes before they were released.

Proposed move

According to NARSOL:

"And now, the facility in Littlefield has been sold to another private company. Anecdotal reports indicate that the facility will be used for another purpose and that TCCC will no longer house over 300 men out in the middle of nowhere, so distant that most family members can’t get there to visit. These same reports indicate the men will be moved to an as-yet undisclosed location."[2]

See also