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Summary: Under current law, Texas does not provide for a public database through which members of the public may search to see if someone has committed family violence. HB 21 establishes a public database, to be administered by the Department of Public Safety, containing information of people convicted three or more times of an offense involving family violence or kidnapping. Additionally, this bill establishes a website through which a member of the public can search the database.
Analysis: Preventing family violence is important, and measures encouraging victims to report family violence are important. However, a public registry for family violence offenders is not the most effective way to handle these problems. When an individual commits family violence, the jail time should be appropriately lengthy. When the sentence has been served, including any time in jail, on probation, payment of fines, or other penalties, the offender should be considered to have fully paid for the crime and efforts should be made to assist in successful reintegration into society.
By placing the individual's name on a public list, a black list is created which will inhibit the individual from attaining employment or reintegrating. The difficulty of finding gainful employment will lead to a higher recidivism rate. Another consequence of not being able to get a job is that they will not be able to adequately provide for their family if they have one, or pay child support if they are so required.
Incarceration should be used to punish and reform. Once incarceration ends, the individual has paid the debt owed and should be allowed to reintegrate into society. If legislators believe current jail time requirements are not stringent enough for those who commit family violence, it may be wise to consider lengthier jail sentences. However, once the sentence has been served, an individual should not continue to be punished by being on a lifetime public registry that will lead to a host of unintended consequences. Furthermore, there is no evidence to indicate that such a registry would actually lead to a decrease in family or dating violence. For these reasons, TPPA recommends voting NO on HB 21.