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Thursday, April 5, 2007

Homeless Sex Offenders

We've discussed restrictions on sex offender residency several times (e.g, here and here).  CNN has a story on Florida sex offenders living under a bridge because many local municipalities have enacted zoning ordinances that make it hard for sex offenders to find anyplace to live:

Five men -- all registered sex offenders convicted of abusing children -- live along the causeway because there is a housing shortage for Miami's least welcome residents.

"I got nowhere I can go!" says sex offender Rene Matamoros, who lives with his dog on the shore where Biscayne Bay meets the causeway.

The Florida Department of Corrections says there are fewer and fewer places in Miami-Dade County where sex offenders can live because the county has some of the strongest restrictions against this kind of criminal in the country.

Florida's solution: house the convicted felons under a bridge that forms one part of the causeway.

The Julia Tuttle Causeway, which links Miami to Miami Beach, offers no running water, no electricity and little protection from nasty weather. It's not an ideal solution, Department of Corrections Officials told CNN, but at least the state knows where the sex offenders are.

Nearly every day a state probation officer makes a predawn visit to the causeway. Those visits are part of the terms of the offenders' probation which mandates that they occupy a residence from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.

But what if a sex offender can't find a place to live?

That is increasingly the case, say state officials, after several Florida cities enacted laws that prohibit convicted sexual offenders from living within 2,500 feet of schools, parks and other places where children might gather.

Bruce Grant of the Florida Department of Corrections said the laws have not only kept sex offenders away from children but forced several to live on the street.

"Because of those restrictions, because there are many places that children congregate, because of 2,500 feet, that's almost half a mile, that's a pretty long way when you are talking about an urban area like Miami, so it isn't surprising that we say we are trying but we don't have a place for these people to live in," Grant said.

Ben Barros

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