No Place to Stay for Sex Offenders?

November 24, 2009

By Rebecca Ballard

It makes sense, when you think about it, that a post-incarceration sex offender might have trouble integrating into society. Besides the common negative reactions from adults and parents in the communities into which they intend to move into, many states (including Massachusetts) have placed restrictions on how close they can be to schools, parks, day-care centers, playgrounds, and nursing homes.

Currently, Massachusetts is looking at passing a law that would ban Level 3, or high risk, sex offenders from staying in homeless shelters. According to the Massachusetts government website, a Level 3 offender is someone for whom “the risk of reoffense is high and the degree of dangerousness posed to the public is such that a substantial public safety interest is served by active dissemination.”

David Abel covered reactions for and against the law in his article “Sex offender ban sought for homeless shelters” that ran in the Boston Glove last week.

The law seems to be met with relief throughout the article from those in charge of homeless shelters, as they explain that they don’t have the resources to deal with dangerous sex offenders, especially now with the bad economy. One person contended that they could be blamed and shut down, should a sex offender who stayed in their shelter commit a crime.

On the other side, people like Tracy Velazquez argued that such a law would simply make sex offenders more dangerous–with no permanent residence, they would be harder to track by law enforcement, in addition to making it harder for the offenders to integrate into society by meeting their basic needs.

Jill Levenson walked a middle ground by saying that it was understandable to ban dangerous sex offenders from woman and children’s shelters, but not all shelters, and that if the law passed sex offenders should be given another social service as a replacement. However, according to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, 1 in 33 men, or 3%, have been raped in their lifetime. While this number is much lower than the 1 in 6 statistic for women that is listed on their site, that does not discredit the fact that men too can be victims of sexual abuse.

After the budget cuts however (Abel On Budget Cuts to Homeless Shelters), the shelter officials say they “shouldn’t be stuck with a problem that stems from inadequate state services for sex offenders.”

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