Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

April 20, 2013

County takes strong stand on sex offenders

By Janet Jacobs
Corsicana Daily Sun

Corsicana — In three recent trials of sex offenders who repeatedly preyed on children, Navarro County juries sentenced the first one to 55 years in prison, and the other two to life in prison without possibility of parole.

Those three, at least, won’t be an issue again.

Most sex offenders, however, don’t go away to prison forever. Most go away for a few years, or go straight into the probation system, bound for a different kind of life, one where their ability to get a job, to find a place to live, or to move around is guided by some very strict guidelines that govern their freedom from incarceration.

This is the process:

After being convicted, a person either goes to prison or is put on probation. Either way, they aren’t leaving the courthouse without their next steps laid out in front of them for a very long time. If sentenced to prison, the perpetrator goes back to jail where he awaits a prison assignment, either to Huntsville or another unit.

“Even if they go to prison, they’re required to register as a sex offender if they’re ever released,” explained District Attorney Lowell Thompson. “Within seven days of getting out they have to register as a sex offender.”

If the offender gets a second chance with probation he will go straight upstairs to the probation department on the third floor, where he will be introduced to the sex offender registration conditions.

The conditions differ, depending on whether or not the offense was against an adult or child. If it’s a child, then the conditions are more intense.

Typical rules for a probationer who committed a sexual offense against a child is weekly check-ins with a probation officer, weekly counseling sessions in a therapy group, and possibly one-on-one counseling, rules about where he can live, work, hang out, including their computer use, explained Chris Aldama, chief probation officer for Navarro County.

“Of course, depending on the victim, there’s specific language prohibiting them from having contact with the victim, and if the child was someone in their home we discuss other options so there’s no contact — having them live in another location,” Aldama explained.

“With social media the way it is today, we prohibit all that — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Pornography is a big thing we end up catching a lot of offenders on, and there could be different sanctions that come from those violations — jail time, more intense (therapy) treatment, or revocation of their probation,” Aldama said.

It’s hard for sex offenders to find a job, so they tend to go to work as day laborers or contract workers, doing construction or painting, but even those jobs are restricted if the company takes a job which could lead the offender anywhere near children. Needless to say, they can’t go near kids in their non-work lives either.

“In a town like Corsicana and even Navarro County, there are so many playgrounds, schools and parks, and their ability to attend those is prohibited,” Aldama said. “Even if they have a kid involved in Little League, they can’t go to those games. It’s not only for the protection of the public, but for them, too.”

The county has the ability to do ankle monitoring, but that tends to be used only for offenders who’s a concern.

Tim Brooks is the probation officer responsible for supervising most of that special class of offender, Aldama said. Brooks not only keeps up with what the offender self-reports, but he also does quite a bit of field work taking photos and checking up on the men under his watch.

There’s another layer of supervision for offenders who move to the City of Corsicana, as opposed to living out in the more rural parts of the county. Corsicana requires anyone living in the city to register also with the city, or risk more trouble with the law. Shirley Morgan, police administrator for Corsicana Police Department, oversees the execution of that ordinance.

“I get the specific address (from probation or parole) and our engineering department runs me a detailed map which shows me how many feet it is from a restricted area (like a park, school or daycare),” Morgan said. “I also tell all the people I register that by state law they have to let me know seven days before they move.”

They’re advised not to put down a deposit or sign a lease until they’ve gotten approval from the city that they can live in that location. That portion of the ordinance doesn’t include people whose victims weren’t minors.

There are 65 people on the registry in the City of Corsicana. For most offenders, the registration requirement will last the rest of their lives.

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Janet Jacobs may be reached via e-mail at jjacobs@corsicanadailysun.com. Want to “sound off” to this article? E-mail: Soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com