By Justine Judge
The city of Springfield has the highest number of sex offenders in the commonwealth. Many of them end up at the Friends of the Homeless shelter on Worthington Street.
Executive Director Bill Miller said, "It's not something we're happy about that sex offenders end up in shelter. But on the other hand, where do people want them to go? Once they are released by the criminal justice system they have to go somewhere."
The Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance (Contact) is asking lawmakers to ban level three sex offenders from shelters. Level three refers to those who have been convicted of rape, indecent assault battery and are at high risk to offend again.
"They are a threat; there is no doubt about it. But saying that you can't live here doesn't minimize the threat. What it really does is divert people's attention from the reality of how do we want to manage this need in our society," Soldier On Shelter President John Downing said.
According to Downing, there are currently eight sex offenders at the shelter. All of them are required to enroll in a treatment program. He said kicking them out onto the streets will not solve the problem, instead it will make it worse.
"They are going to go to anyplace where they can get a bed or a place to sleep inexpensively and normally that will be where there are marginal families who need income so they'll allow these people," Downing said.
That means there is a greater risk for these sex offenders to be around children.
"I have to say I think that's one of the worst things that could happen. You want to know where these guys are," Miller said.
Currently the state only requires GPS monitoring bracelets for sex offenders on probation or parole. Shelter officials said a better solution would be to require every sex offender to wear a GPS unit to monitor their whereabouts at all times.
- So then you pay for it!