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Florida Action Committee fights absurd Miami-Dade ordinance

By Isabella Vi Gomes . . . For 12 years, Miami-Dade’s registered sex offenders have been barred from living within 2,500 feet of any school, playground, or daycare. They’re effectively homeless by law, and today hundreds live in squalor in makeshift “tent cities” under bridges, near trailer parks, and on roadsides. After New Times reported on a camp near Hialeah, county officials called these encampments inhumane and unsanitary and promised a solution.

That solution, though, apparently isn’t to amend the law or to find transitional housing. Two commissioners now want to simply put the offenders back in jail.

This morning, the county commission considered an ordinance that would change Miami-Dade’s policy on what to do with homeless people who are found sleeping on public property. Currently, police are required to offer homeless people the chance to go to a shelter before arresting them, but under the proposed change, homeless sex offenders would be immediately arrested.

Members of the local American Civil Liberties Union and the Florida Action Committee (FAC) have already called the measure excessive punishment and are demanding that commissioners vote against it.

“Instead of building affordable housing, [the county] would rather spend money on incarceration and criminalizing homelessness,” says ACLU attorney Nancy Abudu, who is defending three homeless sex offenders in a lawsuit against Miami-Dade.

Since the county passed its restrictive laws in 2005, sex offenders across Miami-Dade have struggled to find permanent residences. Because the majority of the county is off-limits, dozens were forced to live under the Julia Tuttle Causeway until a national backlash resulted in their relocation. By 2014, the colony had been moved multiple times, eventually to a set of railroad tracks near Hialeah, where at least 233 offenders have lived in tents since then.

This past August, New Times investigated the encampment at NW 71st Street and NW 36th Court, which local business owners say has scared customers away and made them worry for their safety. Soon after, Homeless Trust Chairman Ron Book declared the site a “health crisis” and promised the county would shut it down as soon as possible. In spite of his remarks, the camp is still there months later.

Critics have long demanded that the county relocate sex offenders to legal housing. However, many commissioners disagree. One, in particular, has offered his own solution: placing offenders back behind bars.

Recently, Commissioner Esteban Bovo drafted a proposal to amend the county code governing overnight camping on public property. The code states that law enforcement is required to offer homeless people the opportunity to go to a shelter before arresting them. Bovo’s ordinance, however, would eliminate this safeguard for sex offenders, claiming it has been an “unworkable, unduly [burden] on law enforcement” because sex offenders are ineligible to stay at homeless shelters anyway.

Bovo’s ordinance, cosponsored by Commissioner Rebeca Sosa, passed its first hearing this morning and is scheduled to go to committee in December. If it’s approved, homeless sex offenders would be vulnerable to immediate arrests, while other homeless people would continue to be protected under the code.

Bovo says that “as commissioners, we are tasked with identifying ways in which to keep the residents and families of Miami-Dade safe, and this item accomplishes this goal.”

Many homeless advocates, however, insist the ordinance would not improve public safety.

“It’s ill-informed, uninformed policy,” says Gail Colletta, president of the FAC. If anything, the ordinance would put sex offenders, who are trying to be compliant with the county law, between “a rock and a hard place,” she says.

“Either they stay in the area and risk violating the [ordinance], or they leave and risk arrest for violating the county’s [residency restriction],” she says. “It’s a lose-lose situation.”

Abudu says the ordinance might also violate the state and federal constitutions because it would add time to sex offenders’ criminal sentences retroactively. “It’s unfair to set these people up for incarceration, where they’ll be subject to poor mental-health services, overcrowding, and limited resources,” she says.

Of particular concern, Colletta says, is the motivation behind the ordinance: “It seems like a pointless move on [the county’s] part. Either it’ll push [sex offenders] to go underground or, if they’re arrested, taxpayers will be forced to foot the bill.”

Instead, the ACLU and the FAC urge the county to do away with its harsh policies.

“[The county] should be getting rid of the residency restriction,” Colletta says. “These people shouldn’t need to live on the street in the first place.”

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This topic contains 17 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  Dave 2 weeks ago.

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  • #26603 Reply

    Helene Eschete

    This is so inhumane. We have organizations to help abandoned and endangered animals but we just push human beings to the side. Tons of groups to feed the children in other countries, but just destroy our own children and their families because of such harsh and Ridiculous laws on sex offenders. For God sake, I pray one day soon America wakes up and looks in the mirror and honestly look in their past and remember some of the foolish things they have done and understand that they too could be on the list. I am so disgusted with our criminal system. This needs to end.

  • #26606 Reply

    John Logan

    Many seemed surprised to learn that the leading cause of physical danger to kids at Halloween was being hit by cars.
    I would add that the number of kids abducted by strangers in 2011 was 105, out of approximately 73 million children in the United States.
    –I would point out that 73 million divided by 105 = 0.00000143835 of 1 %.
    According to the national Weather Service the Odds of being struck by lightning in a given year (30 deaths + 270 injuries) are 1 in 1,083,000.
    So the chance of a stranger danger kidnapping of a child is MORE THAN ONE MILLION times LESS LIKELY than that same child being struck by lightening!
    You are already probably aware, but just for the record –its parents and relatives doing most of the kidnapping-not strangers!

  • #26599 Reply

    Saddles

    I don’t live in Florida but it is a shame that some of these homeless people and offenders under these sex law’s are put to this burden. I can see this whole sex ordeal has opened up a can of worms to those “thinkers of law and human behavior” not to mention unsanitary conditions. I guess government doesn’t want to be embarrassed and wants to solve the problem with human reasoning to solve this homeless situation that may or may not be taking money out of their city by tourism or people complaining.
    I guess as it is true money is the root to all evil. Is that the way life suppose to be for those caught up in some sexual sin, People sin is sin plain and simple. If someone was bumming on the street I would give him a buck or two and I’ve did that before.
    People on the off ramps holding up signs I feel so sorry for them. When man’s laws’ go against God’s principal than their is confusion. I don’t understand all this cover-up. Sure we all need rules but Man’s laws seem to change daily. God’s laws never change. People in Florida need to reason this out as this is a situation of man wanting to control man for maybe just having a potty mouth. Who knows the intent of another if they are unruly or are out to attack another. Assuming isn’t the way to solve treat people and have them live like a filthy animal.

  • #26653 Reply

    Tyrus Young

    May I suggest a new Federal law that encompasses actions by federal, state or local legislators?

    Any individual who votes to enact a law proven to violate the constitutional rights of any person shall be subject to the imposition of all penalties proposed for those so violated.

    Maybe some of these legislators will think twice about passing “feel good” laws and take some responsibility for actually improving the communities instead of thinking only of their own re-election.

  • #26664 Reply

    paul

    What is the real goal behind this? The leadership in Miami Dade county, on the surface , do not want sex offenders in the area. But what about the elements that shapes the minds or the conditions that produces the actions of a sex offender? If 1(elements)+1(conditions) = 2(RSO), then by you erasing the 2 will not change what the sum is of 1+1. The 2 will reappear.
    I hold that hurt people hurt people. I hold that people come in to this earthly life ignorant to the ways of culture, and they develop a mindset that is born out of self esteem, self image, learnt knowledge(experience, visual). Unfortunate we do not live in a perfect world, nor are we endowed with perfect choice.
    At times things get twisted and people digress. But as human beings we have the ability to make different choices thus producing different actions. I know that the efforts of the leadership in Miami Dade county would be better utilized helping RSO to become productive citizens and addressing the conditions and the elements that creates the sex offending mindset.
    I am a believer in let us pray for them that seek to harm us. For truly they know not what they do. But because they know not what they do we must be ever vigilant in bringing about the change that must occur. We must love one another, we must support one another.
    In closing as humans we have a duty be humane to each other.

  • #26675 Reply

    Barbara Parr

    I also do not live in Florida,but if I did I
    would do all possible for these human beings.Yes! Human’s…This has to end, the recidivism rate was 1% last time I looked. Mandatory Minimums are so off the wall.Not every offense is the same,but all treated the same. No way do I stand up for someone who has hurt a child, but those who have not deserve a second chance and especially those who have never been in trouble before. Internet, I know a young man that was arrested and put away for 15 years, he was 25.He was physically, sexually and emotionally abused by a step father.This all came out when he was arrested.He put three pictures on a porn sight.Yes,yes it was wrong but not 15 years wrong! He was made to watch porn when he was younger.The judge at his sentencing even ask the attorney if she could give him a lesser sentence, but was denied.
    There is so much broke in the Criminal Justice System, it needs fixed and should be a priority. I will pray for the people who are having to be treated like this.

  • #26689 Reply

    Terry

    I do not live in Florida
    I read all these reply’s and each one is valid and true but we are missing the point here, to make the changes that are needed we must first change the way people think about a Sex Crimes and the Punishment of such a crime. It is common knowledge that the majority of Sex Crimes are committed by a Non-Offender and/or someone who knows the victim, even the Law Makers know this. Until these Law Makers understand that their “Feel Safe” laws protect no one and the public is educated to that fact, we will not see real change. Change the way they think and we change everything. The world has decided that Sex Crimes are the worst of the worst and there has to be a way to help the World see that all Sex Crimes are not violent or involve a child and that the majority of SO’s are not a threat to anyone, they just want to get on with their life. I will be praying for all SO’S and mostly for those that are not afforded the opportunity to live.

  • #26694 Reply

    A mom

    Someone needs to fight for all the Floridian’s labeled sex offenders who are being punished under the Florida’s barbaric laws. They incarcerate, release on probation, and continue to incarcerate without bars. There has to be some lawyers, some civil rights activist, willing to fight for this injustice. They do not have rights to homes to live in, freedom of speech with the internet, or social media, and unlawful restrictions. No other criminals have the same restrictions, even those who have committed violent crimes with guns,
    Where do they expect the SO’s to live, there are schools, parks, playgrounds and day cares on every corner. These laws are useless anyway, if they do locate a home outside these restrictions, I bet there will be kids in the neighborhood, at the local store, on the bus, so what is the difference.
    PLEASE, we need to fight for their rights.

  • #26708 Reply

    Grace imburgia

    I agree with all the above. I pray theses laws will change and those in the criminal
    Justice system will see the truth and how inhumane their judgement is.

  • #26724 Reply

    totally against public registry

    Residents of Florida should be ashamed of themselves- that includes all their legislators. This is a crime! Running human beings out of town is something out of a 19th Century action. Are we barbarians or civilized people. This whole country should be ashamed of how we are treating human beings. We are always putting down Third-World countries….that’s where we are headed even though those countries don’t treat their humans like we do. It’s hard to have faith in the human race when all you see is hatred against one another. I hope that ACLU and Florida Action Committee sue this Florida’s Dade County for all they’ve got and then make room for housing for all the homeless.

    • #26744 Reply

      Maestro

      totally against public registry,

      Someone should say exactly what you’ve said here word for word to the legislators and who ever else it needs to be said to. Like maybe every church pastor across the country as well as their parishioners (since even they like to discriminate while proclaiming the love of “Jesus”). What you’ve said here is so spot on and a nice way of putting people in their hypothetical places. I can see these words of yours actually shutting many people down as they really wouldn’t have what to argue back to that

      “Running human beings out of town is something out of a 19th Century action. Are we barbarians or civilized people? This whole country should be ashamed of how we are treating human beings. We are always putting down Third-World countries….”

      The unashamed narcissism of the USA.

      “that’s where we are headed even though those countries don’t treat their humans like we do. It’s hard to have faith in the human race when all you see is hatred against one another”

      Actual “hatred” is what fuels our society. Not the imaginary hatred that the liberal SJW’s and Antifa (who happen to be very violent, btw) complain about.
      Our nation has become too comfortable living in fear of its own shadow. And people love to view Law & Order: SVU as if it’s a documentary.

      What really needs to happen with all this statistical research is research the sex crimes prior to Megan’s Law and after Megan’s Law. Also, research the types of offenses prior to and after Megan’s Law.
      When I was 17, a GF and I had sex in her car on what we figured was a dark enough area near a jogging/hiking trail. Well, a cop car showed up behind us while we were in the act and all he did was stay in his cruiser and get on his loud speaker and said;

      “Get your clothes on and move along, please”

      And that was it. We laughed. It was rather embarrassingly funny. That was back in 1989/90-ish.
      Today, we would have BOTH been arrested and made to be “threats to Publix safety”. ARE YOU KIDDING ME???!!!!
      More research needs to be done and people need to be informed of more than just age difference relationships, child abuse and internet sex stings. We seriously need to tell our country to get over this “sex is so horrible” craze that we’ve been in since the late 1990’s. The most natural act of human beings must stop being criminalized.
      I guess the “war on drugs” wasn’t working so we turned our attention on something else because of course it’s all about “the children”. Well…wait a minute…so was the war on drugs!!!
      My drug dealer didn’t give a damn that I was a 15, 16 and 17 yr old “kid” as long as I handed him the money, he handed me the dope. But that’s not seen as a threat to me safety?? But sex is? WHAT!!!????

      So sick of this sh*t. So sick of it.

      • #26775 Reply

        Jonny everyman

        Unfortunately it’s the #metoo campaign syndrome. I had a friend who used to brag about how she hooked up with an older guy. She posted a me too hash tag with a long post about being taking advantage of as a child.

        I do feel for legitimate victims abused against their will but when did being a victim become cool?

        • #26791 Reply

          Maestro

          “I do feel for legitimate victims abused against their will but when did being a victim become cool?”

          My personal and final word on this “victim” tag line:

          You’re only a victim because the law makers say you are. They can change the legal age of sexual consent at any time. They can lower it or they can raise it.
          I have a difficult time referring to POST pubescent teens as “victims” since – again I say – sex is a NATURAL human function and dating back to, probably prehistoric times, older men have attracted to younger females due to FERTILITY within our natural instincts.
          When you have a legal age of 16 in one state and 17 in another, does that mean that somehow humankind is different in NY as opposed to CT? In every state in this country you can drive an automobile at age 16…but you’re a victim of an older sex partner that YOU *consented* to? Sorry, not sorry for not buying that line of bs.
          I haven’t forgotten what being a horny teenager was like and I haven’t forgotten nearly *begging* older women until one of them caved and I had the time of my life.
          If you don’t agree with that, guess what – it’s a free country so disagree all you want.
          Had that woman been arrested for being with me, I would be the “poor victim” who couldn’t possibly know what I was doing when I damn near *flew* out of my pants and between her legs. No. I had NO CLUE. 🙄
          This is a problem also; When alleged victims are older and look back and say “I consented and I don’t feel victimized”, no one gives a damn to hear that. It goes against the general narrative that keeps the system rolling and the public fearing and the news media over reacting. All of which generates profit for the powers that be.

        • #26814 Reply

          Jonny everyman

          https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/woman-says-u-s-senate-candidate-roy-moore-initiated-sexual-encounter-when-she-was-14-he-was-32/

          Interesting thoughts on consenting before 18.

          While I agree with a lot of what you said. If you are forced into sex you didn’t consent to then yes you are a victim.

  • #26735 Reply

    Kendal

    I do believe this law would be the very definition of double jeopardy. There is absolutely no way they can say this is not punishment, and you cannot punishment someone twice for the same crime.

  • #26753 Reply

    Phys Ed

    I had thought it was all getting better down there. It’s where I picked up my charge – I was sort of stunned to find out that journalistic curiosity for a professional writer was now officially criminalized. I never molested anybody, never tried to molest anybody anytime anywhere. I did have porn on my computer but it was all adult stuff, legal. I had been divorced for years and was not with anybody special at the time, yet two public defenders threw me under the bus. I had had four novels published commercially in New York City and had been ripped off as most new writers are – and some of them not so new, like Norman Mailer for one. One of his ubiquitous daughters was an acquaintance of mine and she told me that her dad was ripped off all the time by publishing houses.
    When I finally moved to Florida to enjoy my retirement years I was already familiar with the writers lifestyle. You can get rich by writing, but you can’t make a living. I lived in a trailer park in Fort Lauderdale and between Social Security and an army pension I was doing okay. I had never made a study of the law – not the least bit interested in it because I had never had any confrontations with it. I was abysmally ignorant of the arcanities of juridical and judicial procedures. I didn’t even watch crime dramas, Perry Mason in reruns,or even Law & Order even though I had worked on the latter as an actor some years before. I had worked a lot before in New York and in Washington DC on documentary programs for broadcast television and had written or produced or narrated hundreds of such programs that aired all over the world. For me the word “child” and “porn” had an oxymoronic correlation. I couldn’t imagine what any adult would want with footage of prepubescent minors engaged in such activities. Individuals who follow the arts all of their lives have an inordinate need to understand the human condition – and especially its bizarre extremes. I was no different – and like the the curious virgin who gets pregnant from her first sexual experience, I was nailed when the postal inspector, operating outside of his congressionally mandated limits, broke about a dozen federal laws and mailing me an offer that I didn’t feel I could’ve refused at the time. It has destroyed my life, and what little remains of it. I heard a NARSOL spokeswoman on a radio broadcast tell the host of a popular radio show that 80 to 90% of all people on the sex offender registries across the country have never molested anyone, but simply chose to download some extant footage from the Internet to view in the privacy of their own homes. Not so long ago, such an activity was protected by the First Amendment. As a nation we would do well to remember what Ben Franklin told his contemporaries and colleagues in Congress just before his death from what was then extreme old age. He told them “well, you have your Republic – if you can keep it. But remember this: a society willing to trade civil liberties for security will ultimately retain neither, nor will it deserve to.”
    When I was a lad not yet come to my majority in the 1950s, there were only two paramilitary type organizations in the United States. One was the Ku Klux Klan at the other was George Lincoln Rockwell’s American Nazi party, both of which any military in the world would’ve considered jokes. NOW, there are over 800 paramilitary militias in the United States, most of which are led by former Navy SEALs or U.S. Army Rangers retired and they’re out there training in military maneuvers and tactical operations nearly every weekend. Why do you suppose that is?

  • #26794 Reply

    Rajendra

    If anyone is saying the sex offender registry is not a punishment then they ought to look at these people.

  • #26804 Reply

    Dave

    It is not unlawful to be homeless IDIOT PEOPLE! In fact it is unconstitutional to make homelessness against the law. You create a group of hated individuals then you can take away their rights unconstitutionally. It has not gone unnoticed and will not be tolerated after you are full exposed for who you are. You are using fear to ensnare citizens in a rights removal program and now are trying to make them permanent prisoners and wards of the state. You are what the people should fear not these poor homeless people that paid their debt to society for crimes they may or may not have commited.

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