Monday, October 27, 2014

Florida sex offenders pushed into homelessness; ACLU pushes back

The Julia Tuttle Causeway Bridge was home to nearly 100 sex offenders until public outcry forced a cleanup in 2010. No more sex offenders living under that bridge. Whew.

The Miami-Dade County residency restrictions -- some offenders are prohibited from living within 2500 feet of a school -- that pushed sex offenders to that bridge are still in force, so where do sex offenders live now? Beside the railroad tracks.
Rather than helping people recently released from prison identify housing suitable under the Miami-Dade ordinance, its probation officers instead direct those unable to find housing to the tracks. Many at the tracks tell the same story of this surreal experience. 
After learning they had nowhere to live, their probation officers wrote down a street intersection on a piece of paper. The officers instructed them to either go to the location or go back to prison. Arriving at the intersection, the probationers walked around for hours in disbelief. They expected to find some sort of house or building, but eventually grasped the barren truth: They had been sent to live on an empty lot.
What could possibly justify a government knowingly forcing its citizens into homelessness? If you were a Miami-Dade official, your answer would be "public safety." And you would be wrong.
The article at the link has several links to research showing that residency restrictions do nothing to improve public safety. This is not secret research that only club members can see. This is research freely, easily available to legislators everywhere.
Residency restrictions are not only ineffectual and counterproductive. They are cruel. By depriving people of the fundamental right to personal security and driving them into homelessness, Miami-Dade is violating the Constitution's basic promise of due process. In response, the ACLU and the ACLU of Florida today filed a lawsuit challenging the county's residency restrictions on behalf of three plaintiffs made homeless by this toxic ordinance and the Florida Action Committee, a nonprofit organization that tries to identify housing for those impacted by the ordinance. [My emphasis.]
The time has come for Miami-Dade County to turn away from this failed public policy.
Miami-Dade County is far from the only place where citizens are told residency restrictions will increase public safety. 

It is time for all of them to turn toward decisions backed by research and away from calculated fear-mongering.

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