By Mary Sue . . . Chances are that almost no one reading this has ever heard of TACC, Texans Against Civil Commitment.* This is a spin-off of Texas Voices, NARSOL’s Texas affiliate. Begun by two of their members early this year, they are now a small group whose dedicated members are doing great things to help the men who are civilly committed at the Texas Civil Commitment Center in the isolated fields outside of Littlefield, Texas — a place that has been called “A hell-hole of a prison.”
Run for the state by a private company, and like all civil commitment facilities dedicated to those with sexual convictions, the men incarcerated there have already completed their sentences.
Littlefield’s system works this way: The men have to complete five levels before they are released with an ankle monitor into the free world, where they are not really free either. But it seems that most of these men are knocked down a level for simple violations, and very few ever actually get to the level they need to be released. One man, after being there for several years had finally reached a top level only to be told he would be knocked down a level (once again) for a trivial violation. He returned to his cell and killed himself.
Treatment providers are also a problem for the management at Littlefield. They stay a few months and then leave. Some of them have been instrumental in bringing the sham of a treatment program to light. A few of the guards have, secretly, aided in this exposure.
The Texas Civil Commitment Center takes from the men and their families 33% of everything. If a family member sends clothing or food, 33% of the cost of those items has to be paid to TCCC. If one of the men receives $100.00 from a family member, TCCC takes 33% of that . Then, if the man orders $35.00 worth of food from Walmart, TCCC takes 33% once again. When the men received their stimulus checks, TCCC was the first one to profit by taking 33% of their checks.
However, some positive changes are being seen, definitely in part due to the relentless efforts of TACC. It appears that someone turned TCCC into the IRS, and they must have gotten into some legal trouble. The rules have drastically changed. They will no longer charge the men or their families for merchandise like clothing or food; they will no longer take a percentage of any government-issued checks or any inheritance received due to the death of a family member, nor will they assess the 33% fee if a wife sends money to her husband. This is PROGRESS!!! They are still charging if a family member other than a spouse sends cash, but the fee has gone down to 25%.
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.
Wherever they go, so will TACC. The group will continue its efforts to bring about much needed reform in the Texas Civil Commitment System. The wish of TACC is that the program is disbanded, not only because it is totally ineffective but because, like all civil commitment programs of this nature, it is an affront to civil and constitutional rights and to human dignity.
TACC, Texas Voices, NARSOL, and civil rights and advocacy groups across the nation stand in support of the protests at the Minnesota Civil Commitment facility and in support of all voices being raised against the concept of forced confinement after the completion of a sentence.
Mary Sue is the founder and director of Texas Voices, NARSOL’s affiliated organization in Texas.