Saturday, February 9, 2008

Bad Cop, Worse Cop

You may recall that I'd gotten up on my soapbox about a number of sex offenders that had been forced to live under a bridge by idiotically restrictive county laws mandating where sexual offenders could live. This has gotten a fair amount of play in the news. So now, "The state is trying to dissolve a community of sex offenders living under a bridge that includes a gym, kitchen, living room and two dogs." Let's see if I understand the situation correctly.

"A 2005 county ordinance prohibits sex offenders from living within 2,500 feet of any school, so nearly the entire county has become off-limits to them. [...]

"How much of Miami-Dade County, exactly, does the 2,500-foot ordinance cover? Pretty much all of it, according to a map produced by the county and distributed to police and newly released sex offenders. It shows schools in the county — private, charter, and public — each with a colored blob around it representing the 2,500-foot sex-offender no man's land. The blobs cover the map; the only open patches are Miami International Airport, a few farm tracts in the Redland and near the Everglades, and, perhaps ironically, much of the well-to-do town of Pinecrest, which is protected from most sex offenders by property values instead of ordinances. (Sex offenders, like any other kind of felon, overwhelmingly tend to be poor.)"
Sex Offenders Set Up Camp - Miami New Times
Unable to afford Pinecrest, and legally barred from most of the rest of the inhabitable part of the county, the poor sods began to wind up under a bridge of the Julia Tuttle Causeway. But now the state has decided that this situation is unacceptable. So the men are being told to leave the area. Which means a de-facto eviction from the county. Of course, Florida isn't being entirely unhelpful. They "provided the sex offenders with a four-page list of about 50 potential residences that don't violate state or local laws." Of course, none of them are located with Miami-Dade county, since the county's rules make pretty much the whole area off-limits. And at least some of them, like a Motel 6, claim to have had no idea that the state was directing sex offenders to them to find housing.

And those that decide that they don't want to leave the county in the face of the de-facto eviction order?
"We have reviewed it all the way from the Constitution down. You cannot arrest someone because they do not have a place to live. That would be a violation of the Constitution."
Florida Department of Corrections Secretary James McDonough
Am I the only person creeped out by the fact that so much effort went into attempting to find way a legal way to arrest someone for simply staying in an area where they are forced to be homeless by a bad law?

Stay tuned. Right now, Miami-Dade is the only county with the 2,500 foot school exclusion zone. But you can wager your last money that more likely sooner than later, Broward, Monroe or Collier Counties is going to write their own exclusion rule, designed to push Miami-Dade sex offenders out - especially if an ex-convict exiled from Miami-Dade offends there. If enough counties mob the bandwagon, there will be a court challenge, which should tell us if such bad-faith schemes are legal. Any bets on the outcome?

1 comment:

ben said...

England used to have a solution for this... I believe it was eventually called Australia.