Monday, September 10, 2012

OK - Hand Up Ministries to challenge Oklahoma sex offender housing law

Original Article


By Juliana Keeping

After its efforts in federal court failed, the nonprofit that caters to sex offender housing will file a lawsuit in district court, David Slane, the group's attorney, said Sunday.

Hand Up Ministries will again fight a new law designed to keep sex offenders from living together in trailers, the group's new attorney said.

The 14-acre trailer park is run by the nonprofit. The founder, the Rev. David Nichols, said it's one of few places that helps registered sex offenders facing extreme housing restrictions get back on their feet after prison.

Dozens of sex offenders had to find a new place to live after a law that took effect July 1 banned the offenders from living together in trailers. About 140 men live there now compared to a peak of about 250.

This is not good public policy,” attorney David Slane said Sunday. He said he plans to file a lawsuit in state district court this week challenging the statute. He said the law violates Nichols' due process rights under the Oklahoma Constitution.

I think the community needs places like this,” Nichols said.

Police said the park's previous setup — it housed three or four men per trailer — made it difficult to investigate criminal allegations.

Lawmakers agreed. The statute approved by in 2011 clarified an existing law designed to keep sex offenders from living together. Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, authored the measure.

Initially, the ministry put some of the men in tents on its property. They left after Oklahoma City officials said the tents violated city ordinance.

Hand Up Ministries already fought the new law and lost in federal court.

It sued to stall the law's implementation until a judge could rule whether or not it was constitutional. U.S. District Judge Lee West dismissed the lawsuit in June.

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