Most people don’t want to be bothered with details about where sex offenders end up after being released from prison. They just want them taken away from their neighborhoods. The problem is that this “out of sight, out of mind” approach doesn't solve the problem it just moves it.
Some issues make us so uncomfortable that we don’t want to dwell on the right and wrong way to handle them we just want them to go away.
That’s certainly the case with sex offenders.
Most people don’t want to be bothered with details about where sex offenders end up after being released from prison. They just want them taken away from their neighborhoods.
The problem is that this “out of sight, out of mind” approach doesn't solve the problem it just moves it.
A bill that would prohibit sex offenders from sleeping in homeless shelters has the support of most shelter providers in the state and rightfully so.
Statistics shows most Level 3 sex offenders use shelter addresses as a feint to avoid the sex registry requirement.
“They’re using us as a way not to be found,” said Yazwinski, who is executive director of Father Bill’s Place in Quincy and MainSpring in Brockton. He says few of those who list a shelter as their home actually spent their nights there.
And those that do actually sleep at shelters present another problem. Shelter providers say they aren’t equipped to provide the support programs these people need.
“We don’t get paid for case management (for sex offenders),” Yazwinski said. “The only thing the state pays us to do is shelter people 12 hours a day.”
That issue and the illegitimate cover story a shelter often provides to sex offenders justify a law banning them from the facilities but such a move should not come without a plan that addresses where exactly these people will live.
The driving force behind laws banning the worst sex offenders from living near schools, day-care centers, parks, playgrounds, libraries or nursing homes is easily understood.
Nobody wants a convicted child rapist deemed likely to re-offend living somewhere that puts them in contact with the most vulnerable people in our community, children and the elderly.
Weymouth, Rockland and Pembroke have passed such bans. Quincy and Plymouth are considering them.
But pushing them further out of certain areas doesn’t mean they disappear. It means they just end up in someone else’s backyard.
Make it hard to live in Quincy and Weymouth and you’re likely to push more offenders into Braintree and Randolph. Push them out of Rockland and they end up in Whitman or Abington.
Ban them from homeless shelters and what? Where do they go?
The illness that got these people into trouble in the first place is frightening and arguments that they’ve served their time and deserve to be able to live life like anyone else are in most cases specious.
Special post-incarceration safeguards are warranted.
But they should happen in concert with development of a plan that better tracks offenders and protects communities from having to bear an unfair burden when offenders are squeezed out elsewhere.
The Patriot Ledger