Among Sex-Offenders

This article, “In 2 Trailers, the Neighbors Nobody Wants,” about former sex-offenders in Southampton, N.Y. caught my eye. It was written by Michael Schwirtz and published in the New York Times on February 4, 2013:

“Two trailers in this wealthy beach town stand as testament to an increasingly intractable problem for localities across the country: where to let sex offenders live after prison.

The cramped trailers house convicted rapists, sexual predators and child abusers, about 40 sex offenders in all. They are stuck here in large part because Suffolk County, like many jurisdictions, has in recent years passed laws that bar convicted sex offenders from living near schools, day care centers and other places with children.

The restrictions are so sweeping that it can be difficult for the offenders to find housing, leaving many homeless, officials said.

Suffolk County, on Long Island, installed the trailers, after the authorities discovered that sex offenders had crowded into cheap motel rooms, sometimes down the hall from families with children. Around the country, similar clusters of offenders have been found in campgrounds, under highway overpasses and other isolated spots.

The solution here was supposed to be temporary.

That was nearly six years ago.

Today, the number of men living in the trailers in Southampton has doubled. And no one — from local officials to victims’ rights advocates to sexual abuse experts — seems satisfied with the situation. Even staunch supporters of the rules are now questioning them.

“When you propose a law restricting sex offenders to 1,000 feet from any bus stop, that’s just not going to work,” said Laura A. Ahearn, executive director of Parents for Megan’s Law and the Crime Victims Center, who lives on Long Island. “You have to be reasonable.”

Others said they were concerned that sex offenders would not be able to rehabilitate themselves if they lived together in close quarters with large numbers of other offenders.

By law, convicted sex offenders in Suffolk County must have a permanent registered address there while on parole or probation. If they do not, they can be arrested again.

After they finish parole or probation, they can move away — though they would be subject to the sex offender registration rules wherever they reside.

The men are not forced to live in the trailers, but typically end up in them because they have nowhere else to stay and fear being arrested if they are homeless.”