Sunday, July 26, 2009

Epic Fail in Florida: Bienvenido a Miami

According to news reports, the state of Florida began banishing sex offenders to the area under the Julia Tuttle causeway over two years ago, and the shantytown has now grown to accommodate over 80 residents. Yes, they are forcing people to LIVE UNDER A BRIDGE.

The state of Florida claims that they were “forced” to send people to the state-owned land under the causeway because finding homes for sex offenders is virtually impossible due to zoning that prohibits sex offenders from living within 2,500 feet of anywhere that childern might congregate, including schools, parks, or even bus stops.

Since when were state governments allowed to force people to be homeless? The state has actually been issuing state IDs with “under the Julia Tuttle causeway, Miami, Florida” listed as their permanent address.

To make things even more confusing, the city of Miami cites that the state is actually in violation of the ordiance, as the causeway is within 2,500 feet of an island that is home to a park. Now the city of Miami is suing the state of Florida for creating a public nuisance that is a threat to health and safety because the state informed them that the shantytown is “their problem.”

The focus here should not be on the tussle between the city and state, however. The problem is, if other states can find homes for sex offenders, why can’t Florida? It seems that the state of Florida is more interested in punishing these people than in finding ways to follow laws. And if the state of Florida really wants to continue to punish sex offenders and ensure that they cannot become repeat offenders, then they should keep them incarcerated instead of releasing them into the general population.

On top of that, while the 2,500 foot “barrier” between past sex offenders and the rest of the world seems nice in principle, do lawmakers really believe that this mandatory distance creates some sort of magic force field that keeps them from walking 2,500 feet to committ a crime? If sex offenders want to violate someone, their place of residence is not going to keep them from doing so. I highly doubt there are pedophiles out there who think Hmm, I really wanted to go to the park to find a vulnerable child today, but it is SO far away. If only it was 2,400 feet or less from my home. Sigh ..

In reality, the entire system needs serious attention. Not only are people being forced to live like trolls under a bridge, but there are not enough effective methods in place to keep past offenders from repeating their crimes, and, unfortunately, in most states all sex offenders are treated equally. Someone having underage sex with their underage boyfriend or girlfriend is not the same as an adult sexual predator who repeatedly targets and violates children. Their crimes are not the same, their need for serious counseling is obviously not equal, and their likelihood of repeating their crime is clearly not equivalent.

Taxpaying citizens simply find it easier to turn a blind eye and hope that the sex offender registry will keep their children safe. Because looking at pictures online and noting the criminals’ addresses will definitely keep bad things from happening to you and the people you love, right?

It works the same way that the magic force field does.

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