Where can convicted sex offenders live? This is becoming an increasing problem as laws are continually being passed that limit where convicted sex offenders can live. For instance, in Florida, persons convicted of certain sex offenses are not permitted to live within 1,000 feet of any school, day care center, park, or playground.
The following story appears on the blog entitled Sex Offender Issues and vividly describes the plight of a sex offender who lives in Tampa and who is trying to find a place to live:
As he left prison this month, a convicted sex offender named Jose Valido gave officials the Tampa address where he planned to live while he served his probation. But the house was too close to a school and a day care, and against the rules.
So what became Valido's official, state-approved residence?
A spot downtown under Tampa's Selmon Crosstown Expressway, where his probation officer could stop by a particular underpass at night to be sure he wasn't busting curfew.
Valido wasn't the only one with an official outdoor address approved by a probation officer. Another sex offender already lived at the Crosstown. Men have resided similarly under Miami's Julia Tuttle Causeway because they had nowhere else to legally go.
We have men officially living under bridges. To borrow the words of the judge in the Valido case, what country is this?
Sex offenders are our modern lepers, and no, I don't want them living next door to me, either.
Some politicians are only too happy to exploit our trepidation. We push them out; a couple of towns ban them completely. An apartment building that was within the rules suddenly isn't when the city approves a day care next door. Men crowd into the few boarding houses that make the cut.
A few end up under an expressway or a bridge.
Valido, 54, is on probation after six years and nine months in prison. He pleaded guilty to sexual battery of a child. The file detailing the charges paints a picture of a truly vile character. He planned to live at his brother's house, but it was within 1,000 feet of an elementary school and a day care. "He was told he couldn't live there, so he had to go live under a bridge," his lawyer told a judge this week. According to the Department of Corrections, a probation officer told Valido about the Crosstown option, saying another sex offender living there could give him directions.
Valido was charged with violating curfew when the probation officer who showed up to check on him didn't find him. His lawyer said he had been threatened by people there because he had money.
Hillsborough Circuit Judge Dan Perry - who questioned how he could violate the man's probation for not being under an expressway - put the case on hold while Valido's lawyer tries to put him with family in Miami.
"Find him a place," the judge said.
Well, boo hoo for Valido and his ilk, some people are saying about now.
Me, I'm of the aren't-we-better-than-this school. But if the idea of these people living under a bridge causes you no heartburn whatsoever on grounds of morality or humanity, consider this: It sure makes it harder to hold a job. It puts people closer to drugs and disconnection and the possibility of crime. Police do not want these men to melt into the transient world unmonitored. Wouldn't we be better off with offenders paying rent at designated, appropriately located apartments or trailer parks?
DOC spokeswoman Jo Ellyn Rackleff said a bridge is not a good alternative, but it's better than not knowing where offenders are. So far this has happened only in Miami and Tampa, but the lack of appropriate housing grows. "We keep saying there may be no places left but under overpasses," says Pinellas-Pasco Public Defender Bob Dillinger.
And to repeat the judge: What country is this?
It is because of situations like this that I, as a Florida criminal lawyer, am so reluctant to have my clients designated as sexual offenders or sexual predators. Such designations can sometimes be avoided by simply having the client plea to some other offense (such as felony battery) which does not require that the client be labeled a sex offender.