Friday, December 24, 2010

CA - Homeless Sex Offenders Struggle With 'Double Jeopardy' For Crimes

Original Article

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Many sex offenders, after being released from jail, find it difficult to rebuild their lives.

Unable to find jobs or affordable homes due to their crimes, many sex offenders end up homeless after they've served their time. Furthermore, homeless shelters often refuse to house sex offenders.

The outlook for offenders in California is particularly dire -- Jessica's Law (PDF), which prohibits sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park, makes locating affordable housing nearly impossible in some parts of the state.

The Mercury News reports on the rise in sex offenders turned homeless in California:

A statewide task force last month found that the ban has led to a dangerous 24-fold increase in homeless sex offenders and recommended repealing the voter-approved limits [...] Since the law went into effect, the number of sex offender parolees who register as transient has risen from fewer than 100 to more than 2,100.

While few can sympathize with a sex offender's crimes, the prolonged homelessness that they endure after serving their time could be considered a sort of double jeopardy.

It was this issue brought before the a court in Massachusetts.

[name withheld], a homeless sex offender, was recently found, by a lower-court, to be in violation of his probation constraints, which require that he keep a GPS tracking unit on and working at all times. However, [name withheld] was homeless and staying in shelters that could not provide its residents with access to power outlets. He wasn't able to charge the device and keep it active.

Yesterday, the Supreme Judicial Court upturned this ruling, stating that [name withheld] was not in violation of his probation. The Boston Globe reports:

"In these circumstances, where there was no evidence of willful noncompliance, a finding of violation of the condition of wearing an operable GPS monitoring device was unwarranted, and is akin to punishing the defendant for being homeless," the court said.

The court noted that the case highlighted a tension between mandatory GPS monitoring of sex offenders on probation and "the practical reality of homelessness."