April 14, 2007

No room for Kevin anywhere - not even jail

Meet Kevin Morales.

Kevin is a convicted sex offender in Miami. He served his time and now he is on parole. Well, sort of. Miami recently passed residency restrictions for sex offenders so that they can't live too near (within 2,500 feet of) parks, schools, and other places children gather.

Miami's rule literally outruled the entire city. When Kevin contacted authorities and asked where he could live, the only place they could find was under a bridge (outdoors).

Let me repeat that. There were no indoor places where Kevin was allowed to live. And, if Kevin is like most parolees, then Kevin can't leave the city of Miami. Kevin is literally being forced to live under this bridge.

Kevin served his time and it is time that he is able to reinegrate himself into a community. Casting him out and forcing him to live under a bridge is not going to make him a safer member of the community. If anything, he will become more angry, dangerous, and socially disconnected.

Nearly every night, parole officers check to make sure the ex offenders are under the bridge. I thought being on parole meant that you were not incarcerated?

Yesterday, Kevin asked a judge if he could go back to his jail cell instead of living under the bridge. The state denied his request. He is literally forced into living under this bridge (unless he wants so desperately to have a roof over his head that he intentionally commits a crime in order to get to jail). Kevin and the other Miami sex offenders have a fucked up set of options in front of him.

Operating a jail is very expensive but if these guys are safe enough to be in the community, they should be safe enough to live indoors somewhere.

If you are interested in reading one reasonable proposal for sex offender registries, I recommend checking this out.


Anonymous said...

i have really conflicted feelings around this. i know that prisons are a big problem and that being an ex-prisoner or on parole is a problem. but at the same time, it is really, really difficult for me to feel any sympathy for sex offenders. period.

and i'm not really sure i believe they can be "rehabilitated." i'd like to think so, but i guess personally i'm just so angry at them that it's hard for me to be OK with that. i don't know any good solution to this problem, though. i guess i wish there were just a way to keep them away from children (or women, or whoever they have assaulted) in vulnerable situations. having people living under a bridge is insane, obviously, and if the prison can't find a place for them to live, then they should take them back, at least. yet, i can't say i blame people for wanting these laws. i really understand where they are coming from.

guess it's just a complicated issue.

wannatakethisoutside said...

Hey anonymous,

I understand what you are saying in that I, too, think sex crimes are terrible. I guess I think that either 1) someone is too unsafe to return to the community in which case they shouldn't or 2) they are safe enough to return to the community.

We just need to decide what we think. It's one thing to do "not in my back yard" with garbage but I think it's wrong to do it with people, particularly as many of these restrictions are being put into place and ex-offenders who have been clean for years and years are being forced to move out of communities where they have grown roots. Uprooting people from community won't make them any less likely to offend and if anything will make them more dangerous.

If we are going to pretend we are giving someone their freedom, they should have it, and if not, we should at least be honest about it.

I'm not sure how to stop people from doing terrible things but I don't think it makes sense to do things that don't work just because it feels like we are doing something.

The way I see it, there has to be a finite punishment and then you have to stop at some point (unless you are going to punish for life in which case say so). So you can say not enough people are found guilty or you could even say punishments are too short if that's what you believe. But at some point, someone has served their time and if they aren't too dangerous to be let out in the community then you can't keep punishing them. The whole point is that they paid up.

julie said...

I recommend the movie Little Children to anyone who is interested in this problem; it does an excellent job of portraying each side of the issue delicately enough to avoid classifications such as "right" or "wrong," but it also does so provocatively enough to get the audience to consider the situation seriously.

Anonymous said...

"Miami's rule literally outruled the entire city. When Kevin contacted authorities and asked where he could live, the only place they could find was under a bridge (outdoors)."--- It's like that everywhere. It might be an idea to build a town just for pedophiles and sex offenders. No one under 21 could live there. Then you could live ANYWHERE in the town s/he wanted. I heard $3 billion Fed Dollars are going to be used to build a prison on the East Coast. We could build a awhole TOWN for 1/2 that! --- Note the blog: gracetowne.blogspot.com where a prison "town" is suggested in the future. Interesting idea.

emily0 said...

The idea of a sex-offender ghetto is more than a little disturbing to me.

Second, felons are not allowed to associate with each other and have lost their rights to vote.

Third, our system of justice is one of punishment followed by attempt to rehabilitate (in theory, anyway). To force ex-cons to live in a ghetto town defeats the entire notion of disassociating felons with their "old lives" and old patterns that led to offending in the first place.

I realise sex offenders are a different kind of problem - I'm speaking not of violent offenders, who are akin to other violent offenders (is murder worse than rape?), but of pathological offenders such as pædophiles and serial rapists - but I see no real way for this to work without stripping us of OUR dignity and sense of how justice is supposed to work.

I guess I'm torn between knowledge that certain kinds of offenders are "worse" than others.

I loathe rapists, but there's a world of difference between someone who date-rapes and someone who is sexually motivated to prey on children or the elderly. It is the same as the difference between someone who recklessly caused the death of another without a care for their actions and someone who is a serial predator. They just don't have the same equivalence.