Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Homeless sex offenders' isolation can add to problem

Elliott Bloom, a convicted sex offender, lived in his car for nine months this year, parked on a street corner in Miami.

"I just pulled the chair back to sleep," says Bloom, 30, a chef-in-training who was convicted two years ago for having sex with a 15-year-old girl.

He had a tough time finding an apartment because state law bars him from living within 1,000 feet of places children gather, putting most of Miami off-limits. He listed his address on the mandatory registry of sex offenders as "transient.

In Richmond, Va., Keith Francis registered his address as "under Canal Bridge." Francis, 51, convicted in Florida in 2001 of luring a minor he met online, says, "I put plastic down and have a few blankets."

Francis works temporary jobs but says he doesn't have enough money for an apartment. He says he could probably go to a homeless shelter, but, "I used to be a Boy Scout. I like to camp outside."

Nationwide, thousands of sex offenders like Bloom and Francis are registering as homeless or giving police vague addresses such as highway mile markers.

Some blame the residency restrictions that keep offenders away from youngsters. Others cite lack of money or rejection by landlords after background checks reveal their criminal record. "As sex offenders are more and more in the media, people are starting to think twice before renting to them," says Patty Morris, supervisor of sex offender compliance at the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

'The modern-day lepers'

Many sex offenders lack jobs or family support, says Jo Ellyn Rackleff, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Corrections. She sees more of them becoming homeless, and that worries police.

"A homeless sex offender is a much more dangerous sex offender," says Elizabeth Bartholomew of the Maryland Division of Parole and Probation.

They are less likely to receive mental health care and substance abuse treatment and are more difficult to monitor, says Jill Levenson, a sex-crimes policy analyst at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla.

"Being homeless is also demoralizing," Levenson says.

Sex offenders are likely to behave better if they have a stake in their community and "something to live for," says psychiatrist Fred Berlin, founder of the Johns Hopkins Sexual Disorders Clinic. Sex offenders are increasingly being shunned and isolated. "They are the modern-day lepers," he says.

David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, says research on criminals suggests that having an unstable home makes them more likely to commit another crime.

"How much it increases the risk is hard to say," says Finkelhor, who questions the value of residency restrictions. "Homelessness and all the stresses that go along with it is more of a risk factor than being in a neighborhood with children."

At least 27 states and hundreds of cities have passed laws in the past decade to restrict where sex offenders live.

The laws don't necessarily keep sex offenders away from kids, says Florida's Rackleff. "What people don't realize is these offenders are in our communities," riding buses and walking around, she says.

"It's a waste of resources to check where they're sleeping," says Corwin Ritchie, executive director of the Iowa County Attorneys Association. He says sex offenders may sleep in one place and spend their days elsewhere. He says it is better to monitor where they go.

States are increasing their use of electronic devices, often attached to an ankle or belt, to monitor sex offenders. California has 2,300 Global Positioning System units for paroled sex offenders but plans to have10,000 for all parolees by June 2009, says Bill Sessa of the California Department of Corrections.

Housing in Washington, D.C., is so expensive that a third of parolees lack permanent housing, and many homeless sex offenders considered high-risk are tracked with GPS devices, says Leonard Sipes, spokesman for the Court Services and Offenders Supervision Agency.

Keeping track by satellite

"We need to know where these offenders are," says Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. He says the effect of residency restrictions has varied nationwide, but states are putting more resources into tracking sex offenders.

States report widely varied information on online sex offender registries. Many states allow sex offenders to be homeless but require them to report a location, even if it's a shelter or "under a bridge."

"People will use homelessness as a way to evade monitoring," says Melissa Roberts of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections.

Several states see a rising number of homeless sex offenders. In Connecticut, 46 are registered as homeless or at shelters, up from fewer than a dozen three years ago, says Sam Izarelli of the state's sex offender registry.

"I've seen an increase in homelessness," says Paula Stitz, manager of Arkansas' registry. "It's difficult for a lot of these sex offenders to find a place to live." She says one person lived in a van under the Broadway Bridge in Little Rock for two years.

In Miami, Bloom says he and his pregnant girlfriend finally found an apartment that complied with state and local residency restrictions and moved in last week. He may not be staying long. Unless the therapist he sees as a condition of his probation gives approval, he will have to move out once the baby is born.

But isn't the boost politicians get for passing such laws, saying they're making us all much safer, worth it all?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder what would happen if all ex sex offenders refused to register. Would the politicians get a boost for the massive prison building campaign to lock us all up?

7:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Naw, they would just have the sheriff take us to the woods and have an accident. I am all for the removal of government, I think though it should be by vote.

11:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The family's are also being punished. The family units are being torn apart, up rooted, banished, and provished. Fathers with past conviction are banned from their homes and families. Children, young adults branded as sex offenders are forced away from their loving parents and siblings and any support. When a law list a person's home, everyone in that home is ill effected. The sex offender list is growing everyday! The punishment and restriction are growing harsher and more restrictive! Children, teens, are being, listed as adults and for YEARS, if not life. Adults with past convictions listed for life.Statics state 95% will not reoffend. Is this government ever going to surrender to the idea that their politcal maddness went, way too far! Who is footing the bill? It is costing millions of dollars to list, track, hunt, monitor, imprison and chase around all these past offenders. I want to know who is footing the bill? How many thousands of people are being employed with benifits and pensions, on our tax dollars to follow all the people insanely listed. Not, John Walsh, who reeps from his poor son's Adam's murder. His projects are supported mostly by tax free government grants. Not the politcain that, well you know. Not the wealthy, Oprah and Bill O'Reilly focing the need of this grand hate list, down our throats? Well we bought that swampland and I want to give it back! Exactly, who is really benefiting by these laws, NOT ME and NOT YOU and not the CHILDREN. Who is paying for all these unemployed, homeless citizens,nothings free. GPS, food stamps, tent,s,cheap hotel rooms,welfare, Social security,their not dieing on the streets, Hello, don't be so niave. Assuming they pay no property tax, employment tax, SSI, anything, etc,etc,etc. Our US dollars and the strain is on us for their lives and our childrens lives to pay for. Ask YOURSELP,
How healthy is a person living under a bridge,in their cars, in the woods will our government be paying their medical bills.Are we feeling safe,yet. I say no more, BS. Give this person a job, his family jobs, so they can support themselves. I am strapped with taxes of my own! Give me a break?

11:46 AM  
Anonymous MSLGWCEO said...

I have an article that may interest you, "Love His Views or Hate Them, Dr. Klein has an Opinion on Sex Offenders and Protecting Your Children."


6:38 PM  
Anonymous MSLGWCEO said...

I have an article that may interest you, "Love His Views or Hate Them, Dr. Klein has an Opinion on Sex Offenders and Protecting Your Children."


6:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am seeking a lawyer to represent myself. I was put on the registry with a tier 1 offense. My charge was in Delaware and then being that I have lived in Maryland all my life they made me a tier 1. Then a year later after being convicted and told that I was to serve 10 years on the registration I was then a year later told its been made 15 years retroactive. I need to find out what it takes to over turn this, this is not constitutionally correct and its an injustice to me and everyone I am around. Feel Free tho Contact me anytime by this email; Meintzer@gmail.com

10:50 AM  

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