There is this rule in Dade County (which includes all of Miami) that prevents any registered sex offender from living within 2,500 feet of an establishment where children congregate. This means one-half of a mile from schools, community centers, churches/synagogues, what have you, is off limits--and with the number of schools and community centers in this area, it basically makes the entire county uninhabitable for sex offenders. They must move elsewhere. This was the point of the law.
However--when criminals are on parole, they must reside in the county. So where do the people go?
There is a bridge--a highway overpass that connects Miami Beach island to the mainland-- that is not within the 2,500-feet mark. So the county has designated that as the place where they are allowed to sleep at night. Seriously. Every night at 10 PM, about 30 guys are under the bridge, with their sleeping bags, sleeping for the night. And a parole officer checks on them through the night, counting heads to make sure they're all there.
I've heard about this sex offender camp, but I never saw any evidence; until a few nights ago, when I happened to be driving across the bridge at about 10 PM, and there they were...a big group of cars, with families carrying coolers and pillows, going to set up camp for whoever it was that has to stay there.
You can read the story here. It's a bit melodramatic and weepy, but it poses some interesting points in...well, just read it, I'm not going to get into it here.
It's hard to wrap one's brain around--the government making these people sleep under a highway bridge every night, rain or shine. Please understand I don't have much sympathy for the rapists or the child molesters of the world; and I don't think the sex offender registry is a bad idea. Molesting a child is not an act of random violence; it's a sexual orientation, these people are wired to be attracted to children, and nothing will "cure" it.
Still, witnessing first-hand the depravity of the situation...these guys, with their wives and their kids, trudging along the path and climbing up under the bridge...it was just awful. The fact that they're bringing their kids to a sex offender camp doesn't even factor into the equation; there are cops around, nothing is going to happen. It's just sad to see everyone living this situation as a part of their daily lives.
It wasn't that I felt like they were being mistreated; I was just upset that it had to happen at all. That life really could be that bad.