Bill could place harsher punishment on certain sex offenders

Michelle Miller works for the Family Crisis Center of East Texas.
Michelle Miller works for the Family Crisis Center of East Texas.

The Family Crisis Center of East Texas says a growing number of sexual assault victims are seeking their services.

The increase comes just as a bill passed the Texas House that would put certain repeat sex offenders behind bars for life.

"If someone re-offends in that manner, they're just like a flashing neon sign that says don't let me out because if they've done it once and they do it again and we trust them to ever get out, we're crazy," said Angelina County District Attorney Clyde Herrington.

The new bill could allow those certain repeat sex offenders to get a life sentence without parole.

The legislation has already been passed by the Texas House.

The Family Crisis Center said the new bill would not only allow their victims to feel safer, but it would send a clear message.

"I definitely think that the law might help deter crime in the future and if nothing else, it's just a great feeling knowing that the state of Texas supports our agency's mission and survivors in putting an end to sexual assaults," said Michelle Miller with the Family Crisis Center.

The bill would apply to those offenders with a second conviction for a serious sex crime, such as sex with a child under the age of 6 or when weapons are used to commit the crime.

Licensed Professional Counselor Mark Sutton helped start a treatment group for sex offenders in rural East Texas several years ago.

"Once a person is already engaged in the activity, it generally is self-reinforcing and they continue to do it regardless of what the outcome or consequences are," said Sutton.

He said there's no doubt, sex offenders need help, but they can get some treatment in prison.

"I think hanging them high on the first offense is probably a little radical, but I do believe in very intense supervision," said Sutton.

He no longer works with sex offenders. Sutton now sees their victims.

"You're really sort of robbing them of their souls and that's actually what I see," Sutton said.

"A lot of victims just live in constant fear of it happening again," said Miller.

Advocates say the proposed law would bring hope to survivors who have been forever changed.

If you are being abused and need help, you can call the Family Crisis Center Hotline at 1-800-828-7233.

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