Living Under A Bridge

Or, how to really screw something up. Because of new laws prohibiting them being within 2,500 feet of children several of Miami’s registered sex offenders are now living under a bridge that is part of the Julia Tuttle Causeway. I know it sounds crazy to be defending registered sex offenders, but I can definitely see some serious problems with the Law of Unintended Consequences here.

“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.

[…]

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.

[…]With the roar of cars passing overhead, convicted sex offender Kevin Morales sleeps in a chair to keep the rats off him.

“The rodents come up next to you, you could be sleeping the whole night and they could be nibbling on you,” he said.

Morales has been homeless and living under the causeway for about three weeks. He works, has a car and had a rented apartment but was forced to move after the Department of Corrections said a swimming pool in his building put him too close to children.

The convicted felons may not be locked up anymore, but they say it’s not much of an improvement.

There is no doubt that these men should be carefully monitored given the rate of re-offending for sex offenders. Still, this kind of policy could very well lead to an even worse situation: these men violating the term of their probation and simply disappearing into the general population. Then known sex offenders would not be monitored at all, parents and people working with children wouldn’t know if a sex offender was living/working/etc. in the vacinity of their children. And lets see…

A Miami Herald investigation two years ago found that 1,800 sex offenders in Florida were unaccounted for after violating probation.

Wow what a shock! Go live under the bridge where you have to worry about rats eating you or violate your probation and simply disappear and take your chances trying to avoid the authorities…and also make it easier to re-offend. As a parent I understand the desire to protect our children, but with laws like this, the question has to be asked, are we really protecting them or putting them at greater risk?

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, US Politics
Steve Verdon
About Steve Verdon
Steve has a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and attended graduate school at The George Washington University, leaving school shortly before staring work on his dissertation when his first child was born. He works in the energy industry and prior to that worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Division of Price Index and Number Research. He joined the staff at OTB in November 2004.

Comments

  1. Triumph says:

    Why don’t we sign them up for the army? They can live in some barrack somewhere far from children.

  2. Steve Verdon says:

    Probably wouldn’t work all that well since other members of the military have children and sometims live on base, granted not in barracks, but still on base and besides I’m not sure you can forcibly sign up a person, though a convicted criminal, has served his sentence and hasn’t committed a new crime.

    I was thinking perhaps a lower distance along with GPS monitoring devices or something. Also probably some sort of change in th a law where people convicted of sex crimes against minors are forever on probation or something.

  3. Dave Schuler says:

    There’s a high correlation between alcohol and other drug abuse and sexual offenses. Many (particularly 3rd degree) sexual offenders are under the influence of alcohol or other drugs when they commit their offenses. Stands to reason. Alcohol and other drugs reduce inhibitions.

    One way of looking at sexual offenses is that they’re the tragic consequence of our society’s inability to get alcohol and drug abuse under any kind of control. If a lot of these guys living under the causeway hadn’t been drunk or high, they wouldn’t have done whatever got them on the registry of sexual offenders.

  4. Triumph says:

    Probably wouldn’t work all that well since other members of the military have children and sometims live on base, granted not in barracks, but still on base and besides I’m not sure you can forcibly sign up a person, though a convicted criminal, has served his sentence and hasn’t committed a new crime.

    If the government can kidnap people and send them to be tortured in a Third World jail, they should be able to figure out a solution to this problem.

  5. Triumph says:

    There’s a high correlation between alcohol and other drug abuse and sexual offenses. Many (particularly 3rd degree) sexual offenders are under the influence of alcohol or other drugs when they commit their offenses. Stands to reason. Alcohol and other drugs reduce inhibitions.

    Dave, what study are you talking about?

    The issue here is minimizing recidivism. Scalora and Garbin’s 2003 study from the International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology suggests a series of issues relating to recidivism–most importantly were offender demographics, offense characteristics, and criminal history.

    Langevin and Lang did a study in 1990 of substance abuse among sex offenders and only found that 1/5th of their sample had a substance abuse problem.

    Where are you getting this information?

  6. Dave Schuler says:

    There are hundreds of them, Triumph. It isn’t incendiary or revolutionary. Try Googling.

    Alcohol and Drug Abuse in Sexual and Non-Sexual Violent Offenders
    Psychoactive Substances and Violence

    Again, just Google “alcohol drug abuse correlation sexual offense”. There’s no lack of studies. This is not a great revelation.

  7. Triumph says:

    There are hundreds of them, Triumph. It isn’t incendiary or revolutionary. Try Googling.

    Dave, if this is the best you could do with your internets research, you might as well appeal to wikipedia.

    The Abracen, Looman and Anderson study wasn’t even conducted in the US and has nothing to do with recidivism–the subject of this post.

    I am not sure what authority the Roth piece has–it does not appear in a peer-reviewed journal. Furthermore, it contradicts your argument:

    “Some therapists
    who treat violent sex offenders have reported that
    their patients tend to have both histories of
    alcohol abuse and high blood levels of
    testosterone. Without comparisons to men who are
    not violent sex offenders, these clinical
    observations cannot demonstrate that alcohol abuse
    or high testosterone levels cause sexual violence.”

    With your ability to do “research” and read (for that matter) Dave, you appear qualified to be at home on Bush’s staff.

  8. Anderson says:

    What’s the state of Devil’s Island these days?

  9. just me says:

    I think part of the problem is that “sex offender” is a pretty big umbrella from guys who exposed themselves in public to child molesters.

    I don’t have too many problems with restricting distances from schools for people actually convicted of sex offenses that involved children-although I would probably limit it to whatever the walk zone distance is.

    Probably theideal would be some kind of monitoring, but that may be expensive, and I admit in general I am a 1 strike and you’re out type person when it comes to sexually abusing children.

  10. Tlaloc says:

    The whole registered sex offender thing is idiotic. The point of prison is to punish/rehabilitate the offender at which point they are released back into society. If these people cannot be trusted not to recommit then they should never have been let out in the first place.

    Notice that we have no registered database for murderers, even murderers of children (and no it is not because they all get life in proson or the death sentence). So why sexual crimes? Because the US has an enormous hang up about sex. So we freak out about it and pass all manner of insane laws designed to allow us to continue punishing people even after the state says their sentence is done.

    What we should be doing is to have a penal system that is halfway rational. People who commit sexual abuse of children should be aggressively psychologically evaluated and treated rather than just locked up for x years. If they do well in treatment you let them out. If they do poorly you don’t let them out.

    Very simple. And it keeps the matter out of the vigilantee public hands.

  11. Steve Verdon says:

    Tlaloc,

    I’m sure part of it is based on hysteria, but also part of it is due to the extremely high recidivism rate for this type of criminal. But maybe life in prison is the answer, but the one stumbling block is the cruel and unusual punishment thing.

  12. John Burgess says:

    Steve: We fix that particular problem (Cruel & Unusual) by putting them in a gated community, complete with all the contemporary goodies of life, with the exception of schools and children. May have to fiddle a bit with the jobs thing, but it could be done.

    I do agree that the term is so loose, however, that it tends to create more panic than rational thought. A flasher is not an 18-y/o banging a 16-y/o is not a child rapist, yet all get categorized as ‘sex criminals’.

  13. Steve Verdon says:

    John,

    I agree with you on the loose nature of the term, and that makes the situation even worse. An 18yo doing his 16 yo girlfriend strikes me as a heavy-handed use of the law and makes these outcomes even worse, IMO. Such a person probably isn’t really a threat to children.

    As for your gated community, isn’t that really just a really nice version of prison?