Houston halfway house with sex offenders has had many escapes

Apr 12, 2014
Crime
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HOUSTON — One hundred parolees have fled during the past four years from a halfway house in northeastern Harris County where state officials recently moved more than two dozen high-risk sex offenders.

The 28 sex offenders — men who have finished their prison sentences but whom state officials consider too dangerous to be set free — temporarily were moved to the halfway house, called the Southeast Texas Transition Center, earlier this week. Their relocation came on the heels of complaints by neighbors and lawmakers after the men were quietly placed in a boardinghouse in late February.

In addition to the sex offenders, held via civil commitments under a program overseen by the state Office of Violent Sex Offender Management, the transition center houses 468 parolees under the supervision of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Houston halfway house with sex offenders has had many escapes

The Southeast Texas Transition Center is the state’s largest contracted halfway house. It is a home for sex offenders held via civil commitments under a program overseen by the state Office of Violent Sex Offender Management, as well as 468 parolees under the supervision of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

As the state’s largest contracted halfway house, the transition center has grappled with breaches that have prompted calls from state lawmakers for security audits of the facility in recent years.

Since 2010, 100 parolees have fled the center and have not been found, department officials said. A number of parolees have left without permission but have been apprehended or have returned voluntarily. From 1,400 to 2,500 parolees arrived at the facility each year during the same period.

Additionally, at least three civilly committed sex offenders fled from the facility from 2012 to 2013. Each was captured. Those escapes prompted state Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, who chairs the Senate’s Criminal Justice Committee, to call for an examination of the security procedures at the transition center, as well as a review of the civil commitment program.

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