By Elizabeth Weill-Greenberg . . . Since he was released from prison almost five years ago, John has never had a place he can call home.
Suffering from Parkinson’s disease, he spends nights outside in remote areas of Miami-Dade County—sleeping outside on a mat or in the front seat of his son’s truck.
John (not his real name) was convicted in 1994 of a sex offense involving a minor. His homelessness is a direct result of the Lauren Book Child Safety Ordinance, enacted in Miami-Dade County in 2010, which bans individuals convicted of certain sex crimes, including those involving minors, from living within 2,500 feet of a school.
The ban effectively puts most populated areas of Miami-Dade off limits to him—which is why John is allowed to stay at his niece’s home, which is within the exclusion zone, during the day, but not at night.
The ordinance was named after Lauren Book who, after being sexually abused by a family nanny, went on to become an advocate of tough penalties for individuals convicted of sex crimes against minors. Brook, now 32, won a state Senate seat in 2016 as a Democrat representing Broward County.
Violating the ordinance can result in a $1,000 fine, jail for up to 364 days, or both. . . .
The issue extends well beyond Miami-Dade.
Since the mid-1990s, counties, towns, cities, and states throughout the country have implemented a variety of different residency restrictions, creating an evolving patchwork of where a person on the sex offender registry can or can’t live.
Housing bans are one of many restrictions faced by registrants, sometimes for decades or a lifetime, depending on local statutes. Many are also subjected to public humiliation via online registries that display their photo, and detail their name, offense, home address, and employer’s address.
As Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel wrote in an amicus brief filed earlier this month: “[R]egistrants are no longer simply shamed in the public square of one’s own community; they are shamed in the eyes of their county, their state, their nation— and in our global economy, the world.”