The Herald Bulletin

Afternoon Update

Local News

April 2, 2011

Sex offenders have difficult time finding habitation after parole

ANDERSON, Ind. — It’s an unintended consequence of the Sexual Predator Registration bill: Sexual offenders who want to relocate to Madison County face a difficult challenge finding housing. A consequence, but not a bad consequence, said Rep. Scott Reske, D-Pendleton.

“It creates difficulties to relocate paroles, but it’s worth it to make the public aware of sexual offenders,” Reske said.

The bill, which was coauthored by Reske, prevents sex offenders from living within a 1,000-foot radius of where children congregate. Those areas include schools, libraries, parks and bowling alleys, just to name a few.

According to Victoria Fafata, district supervisor of the New Castle Correctional Facility, parole officers are very limited as to where they can place parolees.

“We’re constantly looking for places that will meet our requirements,” Fafata said.

The situation became so dire that a parole officer recently rented several cabins at Pine Lakes campground to temporarily house parolees.

According to Fafata, the New Castle Correctional Facility houses most of the area’s sex offenders. When the time comes that an inmate is scheduled to be paroled, parole officers check with the inmate’s family and friends for placement. However, many parolees don’t have this option, which forces Fafata and her staff to find places that will offer temporary housing.

As of a year-and-a-half ago, the Christian Center in Anderson housed sex offenders as part of their outreach. But because of their proximity to Riverwalk Park, they had to start turning offenders away. Interim executive director Peter Lyon said he doesn’t know where they can live.

“Parole officers get frustrated with us all the time because we can’t take them for an emergency stay,” Lyon said.

He said that if the Christian Center was in another location that was over regulation boundaries for offenders, he would take them in a heartbeat.

The Indiana Department of Corrections will help parolees get on their feet for the first few weeks after their release. After that, they are on their own, which worries Fafata because then the parolees are free to go back on the streets and do harm. To avert this disaster, she said the department desperately needs cooperation with organizations across the state who can help house parolees.

It’s a tricky situation because businesses such as Pine Lakes that help house parolees face backlash from the public. Pine Lakes was ordered on Tuesday by the Pendleton Board of Zoning Appeals to get rid of all of its cabins because parolees were listing the cabins as their permanent residences.

Fafata said housing at Pine Lakes was never intended to be permanent. In the few weeks after their release, parolees are supposed to get jobs and find housing that adheres to state regulations.

One of the resources the DOC and parolees use is the Child Welfare website, which shows the radius of acceptable places for parolees to live in a community.

For Reske, the No. 1 priority is protecting children. He said he can sympathize with parolees who can’t find housing, but he has to make sure that cities like Pendleton and New Castle, which have large correctional facilities, don’t take on an uneven burden of offenders.

“With the nature of their prisoners, we have to make sure that those towns don’t become portals for sexual offenders,” Reske said.

Contact Sam Brattain: 640-4883, sam.brattain@heraldbulletin.com

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