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April 5, 2007

A bridge over troubled offenders

The blogosphere is justifiably buzzing (see here and here) over this CNN piece about Florida sex offenders being forced to live under a bridge because of residency restrictions limiting where else they can live.  Here are excerpts:

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 convicted felons may not be locked up anymore, but they say it's not much of an improvement.  "Jail is anytime much better than this, than the life than I'm living here now," [convicted sex offender Kevin] Morales said. "[In jail] I can sleep better. I get fed three times a day. I can shower anytime that I want to." 

Morales said that harsher laws and living conditions for sex offenders may have unintended consequences.  "The tougher they're making these laws unfortunately it's scaring offenders and they're saying, 'You know what, the best thing for me to do is run,'" Morales said.  A Miami Herald investigation two years ago found that 1,800 sex offenders in Florida were unaccounted for after violating probation.

April 5, 2007 at 11:10 PM | Permalink


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They have a solution over at CourtTV.

Posted by: George | Apr 6, 2007 12:00:21 AM

This is the first time that I am posting to a blog. I find the CNN piece extremely troubling. These are individuals who have served their time. Don't get me wrong. I am not trying to defend their criminal activity. However, as human beings they do not warrant such treatment. Moreover, aren't we a benevolent society? What can we as a society gain by treating these individuals so horribly? Isn't it more likely that these individuals will choose to go undercover to avoid the restrictions? Is that what we really want? I don't think so.

Posted by: Al | Apr 6, 2007 11:32:26 AM

"However, as human beings they do not warrant such treatment."

Check out the CourtTV link by George to see how some view these humans.

"Moreover, aren't we a benevolent society?"

Are we?

"What can we as a society gain by treating these individuals so horribly?"

It makes us feel better about ourselves. Like Bill Hicks said in regrd to the Iraq War I: "I recommend, maybe, a fruit cup. 8 glasses of water a day? Yoga? I'm not telling you how to live your life, I'm just giving you some options."

Posted by: rothmatisseko | Apr 6, 2007 2:40:56 PM

The news shouldn't really be all that shocking. After all, Iowa's experience has been much the same. And anyone with half a brain could look at a map of the affected areas to predict the results--and many did, to no avail.

What's shocking are the persisting policies that, while claiming to "protect the children," consistently do the opposite. It's as if lawmakers went down a checklist of factors known to contribute to the liklihood of recidivism, and decided to see how many they could increase.

And anyone who dares point that out will be treated to a shouted lecture about "siding with child molestors."

Posted by: Ilah | Apr 7, 2007 10:42:27 AM

We are heading to a point where a new amendment to the Constitution, called the Sex Offender Residency and Employment Restriction Amendment to the US Constitution (SORERA), will completely segregate all registered sex offenders from society for the duration of their registration. I have tried to Google it, but can't find it, but it's in the works. Maybe John Walsh's organization is working on it.

Posted by: Michael | Apr 8, 2007 2:19:38 AM

The fight over the Iowa law continues. Almost all county attornies and sheriffs (many police chiefs) and 27 county boards have asked the legislature to repeal the law because it reduces public safety because the sex offenders have moved and many are no longer registered. Governor Culver and the legislative leaders of both parties have said they will take no action obviously because they are afraid of a negative public reaction.

The public is still outraged over the murder of Jetseta Gage by Roger Bentley. I don't blame them for being outraged but the law that set restrictions on where a registered sex offender can live has nothing to do with the murder of Jetseta.

Bentley was a family friend who fixing the mothers car while she was at a class. The grandmother was taking care of Jetseta and her younger brother when Bentley kidnapped the girl and took her to southern Johnson County where he abused and murdered her. The public has a number of good reasons to be angry one is that the Cedar Rapids police response was too slow and they delayed putting out an Amber alert. As soon as the Amber alert was released they got a phone call telling them where Bentley had probably gone. The Johnson County deputies went there and found him but by that time the girl had been murdered. Another reason is the Bentley's brother was in the Linn County jail waiting trial on multiple counts of sexual abuse of Jetseta. The entire family was targeted because they were highly vulnerable the younger brother was they only one who understood what had happened and the police would not listen to him until it was too late.

The law was passed in a spasm of legislative hysteria driven by public outrage.

Posted by: John Neff | Apr 8, 2007 11:37:33 PM

questions. 1. where are the sex offenders before megan's law.

2. If these laws were not designed to punish, there what is living under a bridge.
3. what happened to the constitution.
4. what happened to logic and common sense/
5. Why can't the supreme court create levels of sex offenses rather than throw everyone under label.
6. Are sex offenders the testing ground to see how the government can go in violating the rights of american citizens.
7.propaganda and hysteria is dangerous. remember

Posted by: mac | Apr 11, 2007 9:56:32 PM

If anyone in Florida is reading this, get the word out to these guys to try this.. If I lived in Florida I'd buy them the paint and tell them this myself.

I'm thinking now that if the state of Florida is forcing him to call the bridge his home, I think that he should try to make 'his home' as comfortable and livable as he can. Warmer weather is coming and it is going to get awfully hot under the bridge with no power for air conditioning or fans. So, it wouldn't help a whole lot, but if he could paint the 'roof' of his house (pavement on top of the bridge) with some light colored paint (maybe neon green, lemon yellow, florescent orange, some shade of pink, or a pukey color of green/blue/yellow (whatever color puke is)). The light colored paint would reflect the sun's rays and help to keep it a little cooler under the bridge. To do the painting, he probably wouldn't have any money to buy the proper supplies like a big brush or roller, so he could just casually 'sling' the paint out of the bucket onto the pavement. It wouldn't cover the area very well that way and he'd probably run out of paint pretty quick. So, he'd have to go find another bucket or two of whatever light colored paint that he could find and continue this process until he finally had the 'roof' of his 'home' adapted to help keep him cool.

I feel certain that when enough motorists tried to cross the bridge and encountered the wild display of colors all over a portion of the bridge they would be calling into the radio, TV, police stations, and maybe City Hall to find out why the bridge had been painted in such wild colors. Enough people would be calling in to find out what happened that I believe the situation would make the evening news. Of course the police and news people would eventually probably suspect that the guys living under the bridge might have had something to do with it. When this SO guy is finally confronted and asked why he did it, he could tell them the truth by saying "The state of Florida is forcing me to live under this bridge. I wish that I didn't have to live here, and I tried to get the Judge to let me go back to jail, but he said that my 'home' is under this bridge. Well, it's going to get pretty hot 'in my home' when summer gets here so I thought I would try to make 'my home' as comfortable and cool as I can. I thought that if I was to paint 'my roof' with a light colored paint to reflect the sun's hot rays that I could stay a little cooler. Since no one will hire me and I am currently unemployed with very little money, I had to use whatever paint that I could find. I'm sorry if I didn't do a real good job, but if I had been able to get a job and the laws made it possible for guys like me to find decent housing, I wouldn't have had to try to fix up the place that I'm living in now!

I'm pretty sure this guy would eventually end up having to pay for the paint damage to the bridge and would probably have to go to jail. But, that's what he wanted in the first place. If he couldn't afford to pay for damages to the bridge, they'd probably make him stay in jail a little longer. I don't see how the court system could say that he committed another sex offense and therefore violated his parole, but I suppose that ANY kind of crime would wind up being a parole violation. However, hopefully his actions would get enough public attention so that people might begin to realize what these current laws are doing to people. Then, they might begin to see the ridiculousness of the laws and demand that they be changed.
Anyhow, I feel that something needs to be done to get the public's attention so that they can begin to see what SOs have to live with every day.

Posted by: ZMan, Atlanta, Georgia | Apr 14, 2007 1:16:17 AM

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