Should Inmates Doing Time for Sex Offenses by Allowed to Have 'Pen Pals?'

Many inmates in Texas prisons have regular communication with people on the outside world, through a 'Facebook' style program called 'write a prisoner dot com.' But now a member of the Legislature has introduced a bill that would bar anybody in prison on a sex offense from participating in what is referred to as the 'prison pen pal program,' News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

"The intent of this bill is not to inflict punishment," State Rep Matt Shaheen (R-Plano) said. "This bill is about protecting women."

But former sex offenders and victims of sexual assault urged the Texas House Corrections Committee to reject the bill.

"Prison is hard, I didn't expect and I didn't get a cakewalk," said one former sex offender. "However, because of the pen pals I was able to maintain hope and a sense of purpose."

A woman who described herself as a victim of sexual assault says victims want the program to stay in place, because they believe it is useful for rehabilitating sex offenders.

"The idea that extensive punishment and then sending people to prison where they also will be raped, and then releasing them on a registry which makes it difficult to find a job and get a place to live, does not help me and it does not help the survivors that I know," she said.

Many people pointed out that high recidivism rate for sex crimes, which is why the sex offenders registry exists. But others, like a convicted sex offender, disputed those claims.

"First off, it is based on a presumption that all people on the sexual offenders registry are malicious and incorrigible," he said. "I know many such people personally, and they, like me, want nothing more than to put the past behind them."

Despite the fact opponents of the bill outnumbered supporters, the bill did not come up for a vote in the committee.

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