As dumb as it gets: mixing forced homelessness and GPS monitoring

By Riley Vetterkind . . . Michael walked out of the Oshkosh Correctional Institution in April 2017 at age 60 with $140 to his name, a record as a sex offender and a GPS monitoring bracelet strapped to his ankle.

Michael, who requested that only his middle name be used to avoid public attention, was convicted of two child sex crimes, the most recent in 2006, for which he spent 10 years in prison. Upon release, he traveled to Vernon County, where he had committed his most recent sex crime, and stayed in a Westby motel while he searched for permanent housing. His probation officer gave him a few months to find a place.

The housing search ended in failure. Michael, who is disabled and relies on Social Security, was unable to navigate the process with residency restrictions and landlords leery of renting to sex offenders.

His search was further complicated by Wisconsin’s requirement that he reside at least initially in Vernon County, where he was convicted, along with DOC rules of supervision that attempt to prevent serious sex offenders from living too close to one another.

He continued his search, but came up empty handed, and so like many sex offenders, he became homeless.

“I had to borrow a tent from my sister, go down to a campsite and live in a tent,” Michael told a reporter for the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, adding in a later interview. “This is all happening so fast for me. I can’t imagine being homeless at my age.”

Michael spent the summer and early fall of 2017 at a $10-per-night campsite at the Vernon County Fairgrounds learning to manage his new transient existence. A couple of times a day, he plugged his GPS monitor into an outlet meant for trailer hookups. He said wearing the bracelet is “shameful, and it does hurt my ankle.”

Ten percent of monitored offenders homeless

DOC data show that of the 1,258 offenders on GPS monitoring in January, 131 had no permanent place to live. This means about one in 10 offenders may not have regular or easy access to an outlet to charge a monitoring device. A DOC spokesman said agents typically allow homeless offenders to charge their bracelets in parole offices.

DOC records show some homeless offenders avoid this logistical challenge by absconding — removing their bracelets or letting them run out of power — which completely defeats the purpose of GPS monitoring.

Michael’s struggle to find housing illustrates a problem that is widespread in Wisconsin communities, where dozens of sex offenders are homeless due in part to ordinances restricting where they can live.

DOC officials have acknowledged that highly restrictive municipal residency ordinances in more than 150 Wisconsin communities such as Green Bay and until recently, Milwaukee, are contributing to the problem, according to emails obtained by the Center under the public records la . These local laws prevent sex offenders from residing too closely to places including parks, schools and day-care centers, leaving virtually nowhere for them to live.

Green Bay’s requirement that offenders live at least 1,500 feet away from schools, parks and day-care centers means offenders are banned from nearly the entire city, although they have the opportunity to appeal in front of a board.

In a recent ruling from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, a judge essentially struck down the village of Pleasant Prairie’s 3,000-foot buffer zone as being too restrictive, saying 90 percent of the village was off-limits to child sex offenders and the remaining land was largely nonresidential.

Some municipalities have pre-empted legal action. Waukesha and New Berlin, for example, reduced child safety zones from 1,500 to 500 feet.

The attorneys in the Pleasant Prairie case, Mark Weinberg and Adele Nicholas, are also representing 11 registered sex offenders in a case that ended the 2,000-foot residency restriction in the city of Milwaukee, where sex offenders, some on GPS monitoring, are homeless.

Read the remainder of the piece here at Urban Milwaukee.

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    • #38497 Reply
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      Debi B

      There should be rules about how the law handles these things. They should not be allowed to totally ruin a person’s life or ability to live like a human being. Why isn’t there someone overseeing what the law is doing to people?

    • #38552 Reply
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      anthony

      THAT IS THE VERY POINT OF STUPIDITY THAT IS DELIBERATELY SET IN MOTION BY POLITICIANS AND PUBLICS FICTITIOUS FEAR OF SEX OFFENDERS WHEREABOUTS, TO SET THEM UP FOR FAILURE AND CONTINUOUS PUNISHMENT. THIS RESIDENTIAL RESTRICTIONS AND REGISTRIES DO NOT PROTECT CHILDREN OR PREVENT SEX OFFENDERS FROM REOFFENDING. THE GPS MONITORING IS ASSOCIATED WITH A PERSON BEING AN ANIMAL ON A LEACH. ALL OF THIS CRAP WILL BE ABOLISHED!

      • #38573 Reply
        Sandy Rozek
        Sandy Rozek
        Admin

        Anthony, I’m letting this go through, but please do not post in all caps again or it will not.

      • #39276 Reply
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        Tim L

        Anthony,
        I’m from the state of Wisconsin. I understand your anger and sense of frustration!
        As you put it, ” setting up for failure” is true. Mr.Kaepernick (,NFLQB) knows the situation in Milwaukee’s court system too. His protest in refusing to stand during the national anthem was widely covered by the press but his message was distorted by those doing the reporting.

        Pointedly towards motive, the state of Wisconsin opted to impose the lifetime obligation to the state’s DOC. In other words, the people of Wisconsin chose the very agency meant to impose punishment in the first case.

    • #39603 Reply
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      Tim

      Dumb?

      Given that I am citizen of Wisconsin let me plainly admit we have suffered brain drain. Best I can pinpoint the start of it all is when the U.W. dropped admission standards to below the 3.5 gpa. The move impacted the schools ability to attract major sports athletes! That lead to some successes advanced by Barry Alverez.

      The use of electronic devices to track P&Pers is big data & Big labor at work for the people colluding to protect them. Judge’s often convince wearers that the device protects them too by the ability of the GPS devices to exclude them from occurring crimes. If given that perspective is it not reasonable to presume then, his statement admits that WRONGFUL CONVICTION OCCURS? Mr. Kaepernick knows the story all to well. Milwaukee has very strong socialist roots and thus came Constantineau 400 US 433 (Conn. VDoe03). The case involved an alcoholic “Norma” who when using would well…make public displays of his person, so the Chief of Police(the 3rd and unconstitutional level of recognised govt) posted a photo and do not sell to demand at local alcohol fenders in Hartford, WI.

      Same basic stuff. Did not work then won’t work now.

    • #40296 Reply
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      Rajendra

      I assume those GPS tracking units are not free to the person wearing it, so it probably is a money making machine, one that supports politicians during elections.

    • #40834 Reply
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      Will

      The monitor is indeed a very costly ordeal. Here in FL the standard rate imposed is $5 a day for monitoring. I however got it as a stipulation in my plea deal that I was forced to sign by threat of life imprisonment to only pay $1 per day. And God forbid something happen to the unit as you are responsible for the full cost which is roughly $2k.

    • #67913 Reply
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      Ric lisowski

      Is there an up date on the federal lawsuit regarding lifetime gps monitoring in Wisconsin?

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