The Gospel of Matthew’s Sex Offender Clause?

If any child I know had been a victim, I don’t know how I would react to the issue of how our society deals with sex offenders once they have served their jail sentence. But as a Christian, I have no doubt what my faith expects of me, compassion. For all the wisdom and depths of Christian thought, the ‘how to’ aspect of being a believer can be rather simple. Our truly final exam has been leaked for a while now. To paraphrase the Gospel of Matthew 25:31-46:

  • Did you feed the feed the hungry & thirsty?
  • Did you befriend strangers?
  • Did you clothe the naked?
  • Did you visit the sick and imprisoned?

To say that I know what my faith expects of me is not the same as feeling that way in my heart. I have watched the interesting movie, Gone Baby Gone, a few times now, and I always root for Casey Affleck to pull the trigger. Still, there must be a reason we are not called to only visit the ‘unjustly’ imprisoned, and I respect the source of those instructions.

David Friedman changed my mind about the Three Strikes law–which I supported as a means of removing discretionary powers from more liberal judges–by pointing out how the law marginalized the life of anyone witnessing the third felony. Turns out I really hadn’t thought it through, mainly because I lacked the imagination to see the issue from another perspective.

Fred Grimm gives us that type of different perspective. The Miami Herald columnist highlights the situation confronting sex offenders who have been released from prison:

The parolees are required to live in a place without electricity and to keep their electronic tracking devices charged. Before they pooled their money to buy a $300 generator, that meant a miles-long walk to find a convenience store electrical outlet.Bushes along the bay shore have been littered with trash and human feces. M.C. said, “I begged them to give us a trash dumpster. We could keep this place clean.” But a dumpster would be tantamount to an official admission that these ex-prisoners have become permanent inmates in another setting, condemned to finish out their lives under the Tuttle Causeway.

They can’t have a dumpster, toilet or running water because the state clings to an official pretense that their camp is only a transient aberration, instead of a permanent menace to public health.

“It’s horrible. It makes no sense,” said Dr. Joe Greer, Miami’s indefatigable public-health advocate. He visited the bridge settlement and was aghast at what Florida has created. “Not only does that camp endanger the community, but it’s inhumane.”

Grimm begins his article by pointing out that none of his thoughts on the issue are meant to condone the terrible crimes these men committed. I echo his thoughts and applaud him sticking his neck out on an issue for which there are no constituencies. Grimm is right, we should do better. Not because they deserve it, but because we don’t measure our decency by how we treat the deserving.

PS – Apologies to all my Emmaus community brothers, who know that I uttered no original thoughts in this post. My only defense is that at least I was a good listener.

Article referenced is copied in full at end of post.

————————————————————————————-
Florida sex offender policy puts inhumane nightmare under bridge

Posted on Thu, Feb. 26, 2009

By FRED GRIMM

Still there . . .

No, you think. That can’t be. Not after two years. Makes no sense.

But they’re still there, a bedraggled colony of outcasts, consigned to the bowels of the Julia Tuttle Causeway — as a matter of public policy.

No, you think. That’s impossible. Last winter, state officials promised they’d solve the legal conundrum and international embarrassment that forced 19 sex offenders to live like rats under the concrete support beams of a causeway bridge. The camp’s still there. Only the Tuttle bridge population has since grown to 48 men, crammed together in a nether existence of the Kafka kind.

Officially, of course, the state of Florida would never compel ex-offenders to live in unsanitary conditions in the dank underbelly of a freeway bridge, in tents, shacks, cars and two rusting campers. Yet parole officers have made it clear to ex-sex offenders who’ve served their prison sentences that they have no other options.

City and county laws have created so many overlapping forbidden zones — 2,000 or 2,500 feet from schools, day cares, parks, playgrounds, school bus stops — that the middle of Biscayne Bay has become an ex-offender’s only allowable address.

“They check us here every evening. We’ve got to be here or we go back to prison,” said M.C., 48, who was banished to the bridge after his release from prison two years ago.

DESPERATE CONDITIONS

They live in unlivable conditions. No water. No toilet, other than a jerry-rigged privy M.C. built with scrap wood, a plastic bucket and a tattered sheet for privacy.

The parolees are required to live in a place without electricity and to keep their electronic tracking devices charged. Before they pooled their money to buy a $300 generator, that meant a miles-long walk to find a convenience store electrical outlet.

Bushes along the bay shore have been littered with trash and human feces. M.C. said, “I begged them to give us a trash dumpster. We could keep this place clean.” But a dumpster would be tantamount to an official admission that these ex-prisoners have become permanent inmates in another setting, condemned to finish out their lives under the Tuttle Causeway.

They can’t have a dumpster, toilet or running water because the state clings to an official pretense that their camp is only a transient aberration, instead of a permanent menace to public health.

`ENDANGERS COMMUNITY’

“It’s horrible. It makes no sense,” said Dr. Joe Greer, Miami’s indefatigable public-health advocate. He visited the bridge settlement and was aghast at what Florida has created. “Not only does that camp endanger the community, but it’s inhumane.”

Greer talked of how men there, two of whom are in their 80s, are exposed to heat, cold, rain and mosquitoes, and have no fresh water or toilets, making them ripe for both communicable disease and psychological deterioration.

Perversely, Florida’s ill-considered residency laws not only fomented this health hazard, they offer no real protection to children. Untethered to an actual home, ex-offenders become more difficult to supervise.

No one defends their unspeakable crimes. But residency laws that condemn them to live out the balance of their lives like bridge trolls aren’t about protecting the public. As Greer said, this is really just revenge masquerading as public policy.
—————————————————————————–

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About Jorge Costales

- Cuban Exile [veni] - Raised in Miami [vidi] - American Citizen [vici]
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4 Responses to The Gospel of Matthew’s Sex Offender Clause?

  1. The Universal Spectator says:

    My solution is simple: life in prison plus castration (chemical or otherwise) for sex offenders who abuse children; 15 to 30 years plus castration for rape of any kind. I can’t muster a single drop of pity for these people. There may be cases where there’s injustice, sure, but until a solution in found where recidivists of these crimes can be monitored 24/7, I don’t want them living in my neighborhood around my family.

  2. Jorge Costales says:

    George – It was my first sentence, but it’s one of those things that can’t be repeated often enough. Don’t know how I’d think, if I knew of a case of abuse first-hand.But that aside, as a citizen; I would prefer offenders be given a sentence which includes castration, or life or death sentences as opposed to a XX year sentences followed by a probation period which is literally impossible to comply with.If part of our legal system [or fellow citizens] have deemed any or all of the above alternatives as excessive or inhumane, then they need to come up with an alternative to ‘humane’ prison sentences [like castration, or at least the option in exchange for less a restrictive probation] which results in sex offenders put in circumstances which practically guarantee that they will fail–with all that that entails to our safety when these people, in effect, are forced to go underground.I don’t think we need to pity sex offenders to change the current system, we need to think about what happens to our safety when they have no prospects on the outside.Don’t forget to link the bloggers at Tobacco Road.

  3. Jonathan says:

    Either change the law to keep them in jail longer or treat them like other ex-prisoners who have served their time. The current system is bad for everyone.Also, the term “sex offender” is much too broad and vague. It lumps together adult men who raped children and 17-year-old boys who had consensual sex with their 16-year-old girlfriends. The rapists of children may deserve to be locked up longer; the teenage lovers probably don’t deserve much if any punishment.

  4. Jorge Costales says:

    Jonathan – agree with your comments – your first sentence could replace my post – that was the point. The comments I’ve gotten have helped to clarify that. The ‘compassion’ I wrote of in the post is applicable to how we treat these people once they have served their sentences. Not that their sentences should be lighter.

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