Florida’s sex offender camps: “Animals live better than this”

By Steve Yoder . . . A few miles from Miami International Airport, outside of Hialeah, sits a tent camp of about 280 homeless people. There’s no electricity or running water and no bathrooms. News reports describe the stench of human waste and garbage, tents that flood when it rains, and flies, mosquitoes, and rats infesting the area. “Animals live better than this,” one resident told a reporter.

He and the others there are on the state sex offender registry. Miami-Dade County laws make it almost impossible for them to find places to live and bar homeless shelters from taking them in. For many registrants, the encampment has been a last resort, but in January, county leaders passed a new rule that makes them subject to arrest if they don’t find housing by May 7.

The person most responsible for the camp’s existence may be state lobbyist Ron Book. In 1996, he and his wife hired Waldina Flores as a nanny for their three children in their home outside Fort Lauderdale. Over the course of six years, Flores sexually and physically abused their oldest child, Lauren. Lauren Book eventually told a psychiatrist, and Flores was arrested and ultimately sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Lauren Book went on to found a nonprofit that promotes sexual abuse prevention, of which Ron Book is the chair; Lauren is now a Florida state senator. But Ron Book also lobbied for new laws. In 2005, he helped convince Miami Beach to pass an ordinance that bans people on sex offender registries from living within 2,500 feet of a school, a rule later adopted countywide. State legislators earlier had passed a law barring registrants from living within 1,000 feet of day care centers, parks, playgrounds, and schools.

In combination, those policies left only tiny patches where Miami-Dade registrants could live. By 2007, news reports were describing people with sex-crime records living under the Julia Tuttle Causeway, some literally dropped off there by their probation officers. In 2010, a spate of negative news stories forced the county to shut down that encampment.

Book has been at the center of this debate for years, as both an advocate for the restrictions and as chair of the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust, the lead body for implementing county plans for solving homelessness. After the Julia Tuttle camp closure, he used the proceeds of local food and beverage taxes to find short-term housing in a trailer park and hotels for some of the homeless people. But when that money ran out and the the trailer park was found to be too close to a school, the registrants were out on the streets again. In March 2014, the Miami New Times reported that 57 men were living at the Hialeah encampment, and its numbers have since more than quadrupled.

A 2013 study in the journal Criminal Justice Policy Review found that only 4 percent of Miami-Dade county residences were outside a ban zone, and only 1 percent of legal residences rented for $1,250 a month or less. Registrants in the county are more than 50 times as likely as those in the general population to be homeless, the researchers found. Many of the people living in the encampment have family members who would take them in, but their homes are off-limits, says Jeanne Baker, legal panel chair of the ACLU’s greater Miami chapter.

Read the rest of Steve’s article here at In Justice Today.

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    • #38296 Reply
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      no hope

      book has been making policy based on what happened to her in her past not on facts.
      As long as she keeps pushing her agenda no RSO anywhere will be safe or have a place to live.
      she started with living within certain distances then expanded on that until most RSO’s in miami were homeless then she made being homeless illegal i am sure in hopes that some RSO’s are arrested then she can say “see they re-offend”
      its insane and makes no logical sense even pro “keep the children safe” people have said that the living restrictions dont make sense.
      for Mrs. Book its all emotional and about her past she thinks all RSO’s are her nanny and she is trying to punish them all

    • #38297 Reply
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      Jerry P.

      This is just so sad… I was homeless 6 times after I got out of prison. If it wasn’t for friends and prison volunteers I don’t know what I would have done… I have a heart to help others that are in a bad situation, but unfortunately my financial situation hardly allows me to help myself. I’m a modern-day leper.

    • #38307 Reply
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      Jeremy from Indiana

      So, in Florida, it’s illegal for us to exist… Unfortunately, it will likely have to get worse before things get better. It’s rather disappointing that SCOTUS keeps denying cert on great cases that will fix this banishment problem around the country. Maybe these illegal existences will make the cut… probably not though.

    • #38311 Reply
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      Tony L.

      So now we have two hypocrits out there who want to punish the world, because they didn’t protect their children, they feel that they have to protect everyone, ie. Adam Walsh act. It is interesting how the original sex offender law only covered a few laws and has blown up to 40 to 50 different types of crimes, so much for being a forgiving country and and 2nd chances, which is what Virginia promises. The registry is a form of punishment and until someone stands up and fights it on that area, it is a violation of our civil rights, if you are working and paying taxes, our rights have and will continue to be violated and the ACLU won’t don’t anything either. This situation in Florida is worse then what people dealt with during the wars. I guess we have forgotten what God’s word says about forgiveness and that before we create a law, we should be asking ourselves what would Jesus do?

    • #38306 Reply
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      Walter

      Buchanan v. Warley, 245 U.S. 60 (1917)

      • #38315 Reply
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        C Cohen

        I own a seasonal home in Naples, FL and I have my best friend, who is a sex offender, come visit me for a few weeks each year. Although he is not a resident of Florida, but merely a “guest’, he is now on their Sex Offender Registry for life. He is set to be removed from the registry in his home state in a few years, but Florida says despite him not committing his crime in their state, and the state where it did happen taking him off the registry, they will never remove him. This will preclude him from ever being free of the Registry, which means limited international travel and residency restrictions. How can this be legal?

        • #38456 Reply
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          obvious answers

          legal? hahahhaha..Nothing they have been doing is legal….legal never crosses their minds and it never will…You are the last pariah.. Even the legal departments that should be spending all their time and energy helping you would rather spend money on illegels then on Americans on the registry.

      • #38330 Reply
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        WC_TN

        The argument that would be proffered against Buchanan v. Warley, 245 U.S. 60 (1917) would be that these people hadn’t committed any crimes. They were being discriminated against based solely on the color of their skin. The courts would look at the criminal record of the offenders filing suit and would say that status as a convict is not a protected class covered by anti-discrimination laws.

    • #38314 Reply
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      Hardie Johnson

      Because Florida laws are so extreme I have hired an attorney who advised me to never enter the State at all, despite having elderly family to visit there. I will never be able to visit them in this life. There is no place to stay, although the law seems to state that I can be there as long as it is less than five days.

    • #38318 Reply
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      Phys Ed

      It’s too bad about the Books and their situation… I thank God every day I was able to get myself transferred to an area of the country where I was born and raised when I was released from prison. Otherwise I would have had to return to the South Florida area where I picked up my charge. Who knew journalistic curiosity would turn out to be such a heinous crime, where no one was attacked, no one assaulted, and no one even sought for anyone to be in such a situation.?!
      Society apparently still believes in witches, demons and things that go bump in the night.
      The French are light years ahead of us in understanding and dealing with this sort of nonsense. Wish I could speak the language…I’d go live there.

    • #38322 Reply
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      Hank

      Their daughter was physically and sexually abused for 6 years and didn’t feel comfortable enough to tell her parents?
      Ron and Lauren never noticed any signs in their daughters’ behavior, there are always signs. What kind of physical abuse, were there no marks or bruises? Sounds to me like Ron and Lauren didn’t have a very close relationship with their daughter.

      So now they feel guilty for not being good enough parents to protect their child and they take their anger and guilt out on all sex offenders.

      They obviously ignore all the evidence that shows that living in proximity of schools and parks has absolutely no effect on re-offense rates. Their nanny was not a registered citizen. Most new cases are committed by perpetrates not currently on the registry.

      When will the lawmakers quit spreading their propaganda and fear tactics, and their chest beating “tough on crime” rhetoric and get a grip on reality. Most registered citizens are not a danger to society. It’s the people closest to you, the people your kids trust that you have to watch.

      Registered citizens have done their time. It’s time we let them move on with their lives and once again become productive members of society, and quit banishing them to Warsaw Ghetto like communities.

      • #38417 Reply
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        G. Web

        Hank, I agree with what you said, but for clarification, Lauren IS Ron Books daughter. She is a state senator. Her father Ron (is a crook, look it up!) is a lobbyist who talks all the other senators into voting for his daughters bills. I believe there is an ethics violation there for conflict of interest, just sayin.

    • #38328 Reply
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      freedomwriter

      No one cares. Courts are useless and really no longer a separate branch of government with the rarity they actually help citizens over government or corporations. Illinois Supreme Court just upheld no sex offenders, with crimes against a minor, in parks with the unbelievable stance that legislators know best. While SCOTUS might, MIGHT, strike down specific aspects they will never strike it down completely.

    • #38329 Reply
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      WC_TN

      The fact that at least the retroactive application of Ft. Lauderdale’s sex offender zoning ordinance was recently overturned gives us hope. Maybe that ruling can be used to expand it to cover everyone affected by these laws. What you have is each county enacting more stringent restrictions to prevent offenders from migrating to their neighborhood when they’re zoned out of their own. This is discrimination and selfishness of the highest order. These restrictions say, “I don’t give a crap where those perverted scum are so long as they ain’t near me or mine!!” NIMBY! is alive and well! (Not In My Back Yard)

    • #38336 Reply
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      Curtis

      This in no doubt the saddest and sick thing I have ever seen or heard about. I feel sorry for what happened to Lauren years ago, but they have taken things way to far and they are now the inhumane people. The Books themselves are the Hitlers of today. These laws they are making are hurting people more than they are helping them. They are putting more people at risk than keeping them safe. The whole Book family are Satan in the flesh and are out to destroy everything they don’t agree with and to punish everyone in their path and law makers are letting them get away with it and no one cares. I have to agree with “no hope”, she is making policy based on what happened to her and not on facts, but she doesn’t care, she thinks she is above the law just has her dad does. They will get theirs in the end. They don’t forgive, then their is no forgiveness for them either according to God. They are sick scum bags not worthy of nothing but prison. They are no better than the person who committed the crime, they are worse.

      • #38367 Reply
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        WC_TN

        For the life of me I can’t figure out why on earth forcing human beings to live in such squalor exposed to extremes in heat and cold, left outside to die whenever hurricanes roar through, not having access to running water, electricity, and toilet facilities isn’t considered so offensive so as to shock the conscience! If forcing someone to live in this kind of horrendous situation doesn’t shock the conscience, then I submit this society no longer has a conscience to shock.

        These so-called “honorable” (honorable my dyin’ ass!) judges who uphold such draconian laws have to use the most twisted and tortured of reasoning to do so. It’s as if the inference of their ruling is “Yeah, I know it’s punitive, but prove it!”

    • #38346 Reply
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      JZ

      Sadly in Florida with the recent signing into law of HB 1301 (heavy book involvement in crafting and amending), registered citizens now have to report any address they stay at for just three (3) days or more as a temporary address. As if having to do it after five (5) days or more wasn’t punishment enough. Read more on HB 1301 here: https://floridaactioncommittee.org/governor-scott-signs-sex-offender-bill-hb-1301-into-law/

      Here’s a good source of information of all the books shenanigans: https://ronandlaurenbook.blogspot.com/

    • #38369 Reply
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      Steve

      C Cohan, the same thing happened to me. I am a level 1 registered SO. My parents live in Florida. I went down there to help my dad care for my mother after a hip replacement turned into a stroke. I currently have 10 more years on the NY registry, but because I followed the laws I am now currently on their list and will be for life. In NY I am considered low risk for reoffending and my info cannot be accessed via online due to my level. Not so in Florida.

    • #38376 Reply
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      Wearethepeople

      How can this happen? In Pa if temperatures are below 32 and above 90 a dog can not be subject to theses temperatures for more then 30 minutes. Libre’s Law, states that dogs must have access to fresh water and shade. It is considered in Humane, animal cruelty. This is not right, none of it. Isn’t the idea of going to jail and prison for any crime to be punishment. So what happens in theses places? Are they not called Correctional Facilities, and the guards called Correctional Officers. So who is not doing there job when it comes to Sex Offenders. Why is this one group of people segregated, not allowed into Shelters, forced to be Homeless. This use to be the choice of drug users because getting high was more important, then having a home, stealing from family, and friends, to get high. Drug dealers and users are now people like you and me. They get more positive attention because of the extreme use of Heroin. The amount of deaths related to the use of opioids is now a major concern. The use of Heroin has been Pandemic all over the World. We just give them Naloxone and let them go. I heard stories of how the system was failing the families of these users. Children being the ones affected . So how is making someone homeless instead of giving them a job, and a a place to live protecting children? There is something very wrong here!

    • #38400 Reply
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      Grace

      I understand when something happens to your child you want to do something. But I don’t understand why we do things in a revengeful manner in the name of protecting children when there is so much actual good that can be done. We need laws that make sense not laws that create more traumas. When you cast a wide net in fear everyone suffers. Thank you for organizations like NARSOL that speak the truth.

    • #38413 Reply
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      Jim OC

      What makes the system a complete joke is that all these “people” say that we should not be allowed to live in their areas such as, NOT IN MY BACK YARD, or NOT NEAR MY PARK, or NOT NEAR MY SCHOOL, or NOT NEAR MY CHURCH. So I want to leave this bullying “free country” because i’m done with being “free” but!!! They wont let me leave. This country does not want us any where near anyone but refuses to let us leave with the international megans law”. They don’t want us around but they would be so sad if we leave because they couldn’t poke and f#*k with us for the rest of our lives, while doing this they don’t have to look at their own failures.

    • #38437 Reply
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      F. Patterson

      Registry, as quoted to me by my PO, State Rep., and attorney is not a punishment, but civil action ( like a law suit or action taken when you have broke civil law). But Criminal law and Civil Law are not done together, take the O.J. murder trial, he was found not guilty, but later faced civil action and lost.
      So, if by most states and federal laws, criminal and civil law are separate, how during a crimimal trial can they hit you with civil action, with out Due process, of a civil hearing. No one not even my attorney has been ill explain this in a sex offenders gain a whole separate form of law when it come to this type matter. The punishment for the registration was given during the time of a criminal sentencing this makes it criminal, Now if they take us to a simple trial then it is a civil action, you could not do in both at the same time that is the way the US law and use constitution is set up.
      We would not have this homeless problem nor the problem of living within schools and stuff like this if each case was handled separately in a civil trial as meant by our constitution and way of process and due process. When always advocate for sex offenders and other crimes have not used this or even took it to Congress I don’t know I’m attempting to do it now. Everything that we’ve research of and last 2 years showed that civil and criminal are separate. If each sex offender was treated as Individual entity and not a cluster of people treated as tools to gain political power, spread fear, ECT. the problems in Florida and may other states would not exist.
      Thanks

    • #38724 Reply
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      mother of a sex offender

      Hardie Johnson my son is a registered sex offender in Chicago IL and we live in Florida, he visits often, per a friend of the family whos a detective in Miami hes allowed to stay up to 12 days at the time without having to tell anyone, as long as he doesn`t get in any trouble or does anything stupid.

      • #38814 Reply
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        Josh

        @ mother of a offender
        I’m a registered citizen who has visited Florida the last three years for less than 7 days each time..the second year I went to check in with the local county sheriff…the lady doing the registrations actually told me to leave unless I was going to be there for more than 5 business days….I’m thankful for that because I don’t really need to be on 2 state’s registries…I believe you’re playing with fire on that 12 days thing…that state is not one to screw around with. Especially now that Ron & Lauren Crook have gotten their 3 day bill passed to protect themselves from out of state activism/resistance. I do understand that your son as do I have no ulterior motive for being in Florida other than that’s what normal people do…you know, visit family or take vacation. It would be a shame to be placed on a lifetime registry over a parking ticket, fender bender, etc..or some other trivial matter that gets law enforcement’s attention. Let alone 3-5 years in one of Florida’s privately owned prisons…be careful…please! My family may not be going back for a 4th year just because it’s not worth it….

    • #49566 Reply
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      GARY

      Hi, I have an issue that I have trouble finding the answer. Louisiana passed a law in 1992 requiring sex offenders to register retroactively of convictions before the attorney general’s interim ruling that sex offenders register whose convictions where before the enactment, is this legal? Additionally, the act was changed in 1999 in place of the 1992 act requiring a sex offender to register as a sex offender to register for life for certain crimes.

      Also, If you are still incarcerated on or after July 19th 1992 you have to register, so if some sex offenders get to bypass the system if he is released July 18th or before. Does this sound like equal protection of the law?

      In my case, I WAS NEVER NOTIFIED TO REGISTER. I was pulled over for a traffic violation and the officer wanted to know why sex offender wasn’t on my driver’s license I explained, I didn’t know that I had to register. This happened 16 years after completing parole.

      I investigated my case and found that (2) parishes have falsified (3) documents with my signature where I registered as a sex offender. I knew I had never registered before and as the sheriff of my parish has arrested me (3) times for the same exact charge failure to register as a sex offender. The last (2) times I had to pay 3,000 cash bond each on the last two bonds. I can prove I was never at the parish jail at 12:42pm Jan. 4th 1996 or at the parole office on this same date where an agent stated she notified me to go & register because I went to my place of employment got a copy of my work sheet which is iron clad that I punched in at 7:00am and punched out at 5:00 pm.

      All the evidence is in my favor and I am very glad I had finished (2) law courses while in prison because they framed me once, however I vowed to myself that it will never happen again.

      I am fighting my case myself in Tangipahoa Parish, Where I filed a motion to quash that R.S. 15:544 (C) where “ongoing offense” for prescription period had been taken out of the statute therefore it’s no longer non-finality. They had (6) years to prosecute me and it expired over a decade ago.

      It’s so wonderful when you can stand up against a corrupt sheriff. In closing, I just want to say that I want to thank almighty God! Who has answered my prayers and knows I was set up before because of a prostitute who has had her brother in jail for rape because he would not give her money for drugs. I n addition to having her uncle in jail for rape on another different charge including other men as well because they refused to give her money for drugs.

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