Monday, July 5, 2010

TN - Law limits sex felons living in halfway houses

Original Article (Listen)

They are setting these people up to fail, because they need to keep their fear campaign alive, so they can exploit it for their own benefit.


By Chris Echegaray

Offenders have fewer places in TN to start over

A new law limiting the number of sex offenders who live in Tennessee halfway houses likely will appease worried neighbors but make it tougher for former felons to rebuild their lives.

A bill signed by Gov. Phil Bredesen (Contact) last week forbids more than two registered sex offenders from living in the same residence. Rep. Mike Turner (Email), D-Old Hickory, sponsored the bill after receiving numerous complaints about two halfway houses with eight registered sex offenders apiece in his district. Neighbors worried about their children's safety at bus stops and elsewhere, he said.

"We're seeing halfway houses sprout up in my district, the county, the state," Turner said. "There were real concerns of having houses with sex offenders in the community. I know sex offenders have to be housed somewhere. It should be away from neighborhoods, maybe in industrialized zones."

The law applies to felons no matter how old their victims. It does not apply to residential treatment facilities approved by the state, which differ from halfway houses.

Halfway houses, which don't provide treatment but require residents to follow various rules and curfews, have been considered a better alternative than imprisoning non-violent offenders. The recent Department of Correction budget crisis put an emphasis on halfway houses, because offenders pay a weekly fee for room and board.

Six halfway houses

But out of the 62 halfway houses listed on the Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole's website, only six take sex offenders. Four of those are in Middle Tennessee and the other two are in Memphis.

Probation and Parole has no oversight of the halfway houses, but they refer sex offenders under their supervision to them, said spokeswoman Melissa Mc-Donald. They are working on notifying the halfway houses of the new law.

"This change will present some new challenges for that particular offender population," she said. "But, as they have always done, our officers will work with offenders who need placements to find appropriate situations for them."'

[name withheld] was helping his son, [name withheld], 39, find a halfway house when the registered sex offender was released from prison in Tiptonville and given a bus ticket to Nashville. The older [name withheld] said he didn't know about the new law. His son was turned away from a halfway house and is staying at the Nashville Rescue Mission, [name withheld] said.

Father's 'mixed feelings

"I have mixed feelings about this," said [name withheld], of Brunswick, Ga. "I understand the side of a victim, and I know people don't want sex offenders in their neighborhoods. Everybody needs a place to live. For these people, they will wind back in prison if there is nowhere to go."
- And that, IMO, is what they want, so they can continue to justify these unconstitutional laws.

Bill Brown, director of admissions at Christian Homes Ministries in South Nashville, was unaware of the new law.

Brown said that most people in halfway houses come from prison or substance abuse treatment centers and many are court ordered. In Tennessee, most halfway houses are privately owned and not run by state government or treatment centers. Even before the law, he stopped taking sex offenders because of neighborhood pressure.

"It's very frustrating because of the way sex offenders are marked," Brown said. "They can't get jobs. We have to remember that we are paying for them to be in prison. The laws are inconsistent, especially for the ones trying to be good citizens."

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