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I was wondering if any other offices are having problems with the Mexia people and their "furlough" notions.

Last year, we had a juvenile capital murder defendant that the court sent there. Mexia allowed this capital murder defendant to go home for 30 days or more at a time (without ever notifying our office or the trial judge). (I also heard that Mexia let a juvenile capital murder defendant from Harris County go on vacation to Las Vegas.)

When we tried to transfer the kid to adult court on his 18th birthday our judge refused. She ruled that because Mexia had sent the kid to live with his parents for an extended period of time, the kid had been "furloughed," and thus (even though neither our office nor the court had notice of the "furlough") the kid was now not eligible for transfer to adult court. TFC sec. 55.44. Whether our judge's reading of sec. 55.44 is correct is not important because she cannot be persuaded otherwise.

The Health And Safety Code has a definition of "furlough" as meaning a 72-hour release. H & S Code sec. 574.082. That section doesn't technically apply to a mental retardation commitment because it deals with mental illness.

Mexia takes the position that as long as *they* don't call these releases "furloughs" then there shouldn't be a problem under TFC sec. 55.44, and TFC sec. 55.45 cannot be used to limit them from letting these kids out. In other words, they argue that "furlough" in TFC secs. 54.44 & 55.45, means two distinctly different things depending upon whether mental illness or mental retardation is at issue.

Anyway, we tried to prevent this from happening again by putting in a recent mental retardation commitment order that the kid cannot leave the complex without the trial court (and our office) first being notified of the planned release. See TFC sec. 55.45.

Mexia is now having a major snit about it (lamenting: "under this order, the kid can't even go to the movies") and has brought the AG in to contest the order.

We asked Prof. Dawson to help fix this mess last legislative session but he felt like not enough problems came up.
Posts: 527 | Location: Fort Worth, Texas, | Registered: May 23, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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It's hard to answer your question because I do not know enough about your case. (for example, was it a regular committment or a determinate sentence?). Also, you mention chapter 55, so I can't tell if this was some kind of mental health committment. HOWEVER, the Mexia people need to look back to a case that happened in Houston in the 80s. A juvenile had been committed to a MHMRA facility from the Houston juvenile court and was allowed to go on a "home visit" over the weekend from the facility to his family in Houston. While he was in Houston he spotted a beautiful new red Thunderbird at a gas station and ended up killing the young woman - a Houston dentist- who owned the vehicle - in the course of a carjacking. There was, of course, a huge civil suit and legislative repercussions after this incident. I can't belive that TYC isn't painfully aware of that case when they make these decisions. (also, in the past, I have encountered situations where TYC used "furlough" to send a kiddo home early, while telling the legislators that they have a certain number of months required stay for certain types of offenses. They used the "furlough" to get around these requirements.)
Posts: 113 | Location: Houston, Texas,USA | Registered: October 30, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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