Still the question: Will sex offenders be allowed in emergency shelters in NC?

By Sandy . . . Multiple persons on the North Carolina sex offender registry were told that, if they needed to evacuate due to Hurricane Florence, they could not go to a shelter in a school or a church if it had a school or a daycare. Some were told they couldn’t go to any shelter that had children in it. Some of the prohibitions were accompanied by threats to be arrested if they attempted to enter such a shelter.

Brunswick is one county where mandatory evacuations were issued and major storm impact was anticipated before the fact. The reality lived up to the expectation.

NARSOL has personal knowledge of two residents of Brunswick County. Both received telephone calls making clear where they could NOT seek shelter; one received two recorded phone calls with the information.

Brunswick has three shelters. They are all schools. They have all been declared pet-welcome shelters but registered offenders-prohibited.

The counties closest are New Haven, Columbus, Pender, and Bladen. These counties have, respectively, 5, 5, 4, and 5 shelters. They are all schools. A wider looks at shelters opened in the state shows that over 90% of them are schools.

One of the registrants who contacted NARSOL went to South Carolina. The other had no place else to go and limited means. He and his family stayed in the mobile home in which they live. At last contact they were all still alive.

NARSOL spent Monday and Tuesday verifying with law enforcement and emergency management that registrants would not be allowed in any of the school shelters. Wednesday NARSOL issued a press release detailing the situation; it was distributed not just in North Carolina but nationwide in hopes that enough pressure would be brought to bear to cause North Carolina authorities to re-think the situation.

On Friday, WCNC in Charlotte put up a story with the header, “Sex offenders can stay in public shelters in NC.” In it an accepted plan is laid out. The article cites Bill Holmes, a spokesperson for the State. Mr. Holmes is director of legislative and public affairs for North Carolina. While quietly rejoicing, we wanted verification, and NARSOL contacted WCNC by email and Mr. Holmes through email and telephone.  We have not, as of this posting, received a response.

An internet search turned up no other media outlet but WCNC carrying the story. A phone call Saturday morning to North Carolina Emergency Services reached someone who could not verify or deny the information but assured me that the management team would investigate and call me back. If that call materializes, I will update this. For now, this is what we know.

What does this mean? We don’t know. If you are a registrant in North Carolina and need shelter, will you be accepted there? We don’t know. If you ARE a registrant in need of shelter there and are willing to try, please let us know what happens.

This is still very much an on-going story. Expect updates.

 

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Sandy Rozek

Sandy is communications director for NARSOL, editor-in-chief of the Digest, and a writer for the Digest and the NARSOL website. Additionally, she participates in updating and managing the website and assisting with a variety of organizational tasks.

  • This topic has 13 replies, 1 voice, and was last updated 2 years ago by AvatarTS.
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    • #46542 Reply
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      Tammie Lawson

      How can a State of Emergency not apply for everyone? Is this not considered cruel and unusual punishment? Innocent children and families suffer from idoctic laws regarding RSOs! It’s time to demand changes for RSOs and their families. Equality for all! Dogs, cats are treated better than humans!!! Murders, drug lords, thief’s, robbers, child abusers can all stay but a registered SO cant. Smh!!!

    • #46550 Reply
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      Misdemeanor offender

      It is a sad world when politics takes precedence over human life and safety. NC Governor Roy Cooper was once the State Attorney General that crafted many of the sex offender laws and continues to sign rather than veto laws that continue to harm families, individuals, and advocates. For example, failing to provide information about a sex offender carries a felony in NC. That means if an individual takes a known sex offender into his/her home for shelter during a disaster and doesn’t inform authorities then both the registered offender and the people in the home can all be charged with felonies. (14-208.1lA(a)(2))

      Governor Cooper is not going to issue an official statement or recommendation about sex offenders at shelters because this is an election season and the outcome may be used by the opposing political party. Even if the governor decides to interject something, it will be something to the effect “we are thankful the storm didn’t impact as we anticipated. therefore executive orders weren’t necessary.” Politicians will always spin something without actually tackling the core issue or complaint only to pass it on to the next governor. It is nothing more than politics until death occurs and there is overwhelming proof that the system failed to protect the individual.

      Perhaps it is time to escalate these issues towards the ACLU or the United Nations? It may sound a bit of overkill. However, these are fundamental human rights that include life, liberty, freedom from torture and the right to be included in minimal protections during states of emergencies.

      Reporters and news agencies wouldn’t touch this issue with a 10-foot pole. Why? Because of the backlash, people perceive as standing up for the rights of sex offenders. News journalism isn’t the same as “60 Minutes” or “Frontline.” The media doesn’t inform or educate its followers. It mostly incites to close a loop creating a bit more of injustices or additional conditions. I am willing to bet that future legislation in NC will mandate the registered offender’s report to a county jail during a time of crisis. It will somehow become law. Nevermind that it tears families apart. Nevermind that it adjudicates an issue where an offender has done nothing wrong but ask for help during a crisis.

      Lessons learned moment with regards to Hurricane Florence proves that registered offenders are no longer second-class citizens, but now deemed “stateless” because there are no formalized plans, but only guessing, as to how to integrate them back into society.

    • #46557 Reply
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      Saddles

      I would have to agree with Tammie that it is an inhumane situation for police or government down in the flood area and to treat people like this it says a lot about American Government in this Nation. They can set them up on the internet just as easy. Government only plays by their rules and its the calm before the storm syndrome.

      Yes they are out of line in this situation. What does that tell you about others in other area’s and about treating others fairly. People just want to glamorize what the state does with its rescue team but I wonder who rescue’s American justice. Its people like us that have to adress the situation and do all we can for our fellow American. I wonder who the criminal is in this case or who is predicting?

    • #46580 Reply
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      ML

      In addition to the effects of people seeking and maybe not being able to find adequate emergency shelter, how will registrants be affected who like others may not be able to return to their homes immediately after the storm is over and the waters recede? We should also be asking what states/communities intend to do to help registrants who may become homeless because they cannot find housing. States have needlessly forced many people into homelessness with stupid and counterproductive residency restrictions and those restrictions are exacerbated by these storms and other natural disasters.

      This at least throws open questions about what counts as a residence when so many can become nomads and refugees in an instant.

      • #46589 Reply
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        Misdemeanor offender

        The fact is that there will be hundreds of registered offenders unable to return to homes. However, the issue for those sex offenders gets more complicated than that according to how NC law is specifically written:

        1. Offenders changing counties must report IN-PERSON within 3 business days to the sheriff of the county of current residence and within 10 days to the sheriff of the new county of face a felony charge. But what if that the originating county has limited resources to operate? It places offenders squarely in the middle against a ticking time clock. 14-208.9(a) [2007 S.L. 213]
        2. If an offender wishes or must relocate from NC to let’s say over the border in SC, he/she must report IN-PERSON to the originating county at least 3 business days before person intends to leave North Carolina or face a felony charge. 14-208.9(b) [2006 S.L. 247]
        3. If, for example, an offender works at Walmart but the store wants to temporarily reassign the offender to another operational store because one store is damaged or inoperable (even if the store is in the same county), then the offender must notify the sheriff within 72 hours or risk a felony charge. 14-208.8A [2006 S.L. 247; 2007 S.L. 484]
        4. Lastly, registered offenders are prohibited by state law from seeking public housing assistance. This means, no housing for registered offenders and perhaps if a background check shows a prior sexual offense but no longer meets registry requirements. When happens if FEMA begins handing out FEMA trailers or hotel rooms? Where will offenders go? Essentially, we are creating another Florida “living under a bridge” situation right here in North Carolina.

        Many counties in NC are closed due to the hurricane and perhaps damaged by floodwaters. However, sheriffs will insist that jails and deputy operations are 24/7 even if it means offenders are unable to maneuver in conditions or heeding the governor to stay off roads. The fact is, the law doesn’t stop and neither will sheriffs to keep their recidivism rates high for reporting purposes. Even if there are charges and they are dropped by a sympathetic judge, the fact remains that the offenders would have to pay out of pocket for legal fees which can range from $5K-$7K. Let’s face some real facts that county prosecutors and law enforcement are not our friends or advocates especially when a felony charge is listed on the warrant. The law as written never takes into account issues of disasters or the danger of conditions – unless there are specific provisions in the law. These issues are always left up to judges which could take months before a case is heard.

        This is why this is a critical time for NARSOL and its members to become engaged in heavily advocating and changing the registry and its effects on human beings during moments of crisis. The reporting backstory reporters want is no longer relevant and distracts from the overall message. The core focus should be on the now and future. The past of an offender is irrelevant because it dehumanizes offenders within society and distracts from the focal issue at hand.

        You are correct to assess the nomad and refugee example. I have repeatedly said, “sex offenders in America are stateless citizens” when passports are taken away at airports, denial of housing, movement, liberty from civil commitments, and the only crime where an individual must report in-person to law enforcement when not on official probation.

    • #46575 Reply
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      obvious answers

      on the bright side if you are a illegal alien, drug dealing, serial killer that also has cannibalistic tendency and maybe an inclination to arson, or an abortionist doctor with thousands of dead children to your name you are fully accepted in any of the shelters with open arms because of course “we are protecting the children” …..hahaha And you think it has anything to do with protecting children or criminal justice..what a joke..I have lived in third world banana republics with more logical justice systems…

      • #46590 Reply
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        Misdemeanor offender

        You are correct that all of those are welcomed with opened arms at shelters. If you want a little bit more of insanity then you may want to sit down for this one.

        NC has a provision in its gun laws that strictly prohibit any firearm from bringing on any school campus – which carries a felony charge (law enforcement excluded). However, there are concealed and hidden firearms in NC school-based shelters because gun owners cannot afford to lose them in flood waters or in the hands of looters.

        Funny how the law works to always protect one particular group but not those asking law enforcement for help?

        • #46612 Reply
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          WC_TN

          What about the double standard that a 10-year-old is legally incapable of giving informed consent to any sexual act with an adult because they do not understand sex and the consequences of a sexual relationship but can be punished for sexual misconduct and made to register for LIFE like an adult predatory offender against children? They are not viewed under the law as having the mental maturity to give informed concent, but let that same 10-year-old do something considered sexually criminal and in some states he can be forced to register for life just like an adult offender. Somebody explain that one sometimes.

    • #46611 Reply
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      WC_TN

      I will never pass up an opportunity to state the underlying truth about his deplorable situation.

      I hope every registered citizen in NC heeded Sandra’s advice to keep a detailed journal of everything that happens to you as Florence churns through. I hope they recorded names, dates, times, and UNIMBELLISHED details of each situation so that the information can be submitted to NARSOL. That way the data can be organized into an unimpeachably accurate report summary that can be used to challenge these laws on 8th Amendment grounds. It is beyond cruel and unusual punishment to deny equally safe, hospitable, and comfortable shelters to registered citizens.

      What should be telling is that the state made ZERO EFFORT to set up separate shelters for registrants and their families. That speaks volumes. Not only do they place the shelters where they KNOW registrants won’t be allowed (in schools), but they make no effort to set up shelters that would comply with state law and keep the registrants separate from other families. The ugly, unvarnished truth is this: THE PUBLIC AND THE POLITICIANS WHO REFLECT THEIR SENTIMENTS COULD CARE LESS IF EVERY REGISTERED SEX OFFENDER IN THE STATE WERE KILLED BY THIS STORM.

      I CALL ON NARSOL TO INCLUDE AS MUCH INFORMATION AS CAN BE COMPLIED IN A BRIEF TO BE SENT TO THE ATTORNEYS WHO ARE GOING TO BE DEFENDING THE RULING AGAINST THE COLORADO SEX OFFENDER REGISTRY IN THE 10TH CIRCUIT.

      If the fact that any state would make ZERO EFFORT to set up equally safe, comfortable, hospitable shelters for registered citizens does not show egregious animus and a total disregard for the lives and safety of registrants and their families, then nothing will. That they are forced to live outside exposed to the elements during lethal cold, heat, or storms shows deliberate indifference for human life. All you have to do is look to the bill that was submitted in Rhode Island to limit the number of registered sex offenders allowed to stay at any one homeless shelter during the coldest part of the 2017-2018 winter.

      • #46657 Reply
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        misdemeanor offender

        I hear your frustration and perhaps anger. I do share similar sentiments and mood when tackling sex offender issues. Yes, you are correct to say NC prioritized citizens based solely on not being on a list.

        A significant issue and perhaps problem with registered offenders is the “fear” factor. Registered offenders want to stay as invisible as possible as to not draw attention. Therefore, advocacy and standing up for particular rights can pose a challenge if a majority of offenders either don’t want to rock the boat or be actively advocating for themselves. It is a unique situation with an ultra-difficult pathway towards self-motivation.

        Perhaps a suggestion for future court cases is to incorporate sex offender shelter denials equal to “stop and frisk” practices? That could press a point about Eighth Amendment issues you mentioned.

    • #46628 Reply
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      Saddles

      While I know this is a tradgy and although many people labeled with the sex offender status are denied shelters with family members and are separated from them we all should not only pray for those that have lost their belongings and personal possessions.

      Sure people in that area will stand up for their rights and I’m also sure their is guilt on both sides in situations such as this. Its tramatic for both parties or is it the lesser of the two evils as one would say. See the whether is out of anyone’s hand but law enforcement is not. Its sad all over.

    • #46653 Reply
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      Glen

      Unbelievable…what are people supposed to do?

      On the otherhand, here’s another article Narsol may find interesting regarding our newest supreme court nominee. It really shows the attitude of solicitors when it comes to sex crime allegations.

      https://www.washingtonpost.com/amphtml/politics/2018/09/18/former-sex-crimes-prosecutor-analyzed-fords-allegations-against-kavanaugh-heres-her-take/

    • #46672 Reply
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      TS

      Has there been anymore follow up on this with possibly affected registrants to see what a finally tally of action was taken, e.g. tried to enter, did not try to enter, stayed at home, etc? Will there be as best as possible? Would be interesting to see what data could be learned, analyzed, and shown for future fights in NC and the eastern seaboard when it comes to hurricane responses.

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