August 21, 2011

Where to put Oregon's homeless sex offenders? Well, the Salem Walmart parking lot is out

8-21-2011 Oregon:

SALEM -- Robert Corry crawls out of his bedroll, yanks on jeans and a T-shirt and shoves open the back door of his van. He steps outside into the early morning air, alone in the parking lot.

Corry sleeps in his beat-up 1985 Chevy Astro. These days he parks overnight in a lot serving a cluster of Marion County buildings, including the jail, parole and probation and sheriff's offices. Before that he camped amid the RVs at Walmart.

This might be the story of so many homeless in Oregon except for this twist: Corry, 51, is a registered sex offender.

To fulfill the terms of his post-prison supervision, he must register his address. But he has no permanent roof over his head.

Oregon has 18,000 registered sex offenders and an unknown fraction are homeless. Tracking them is a nationwide problem, said Vi Beaty, manager of the sex offender registry in Oregon.

"Nobody really has a good answer for it," she said. "We have people registered under bridges. If they sleep in a parking lot or rest area it would not surprise me. I've never heard of (using) Walmart before."

Corry's case is not the first time a cash-strapped municipality has let a sex offender camp in a parking lot. Polk County offered them a space next to its corrections building until 2007, when it set up three beds for offenders inside the building after their release. But the county would never send sex offenders to Walmart, said Marty Silbernagel, director of Polk County corrections.

"It's a public place," Silbernagel said, "It's like saying it's OK to stay at McDonald's."

Note: Isn't anywhere in society a "Public Place" and given that, and that there are no laws requiring former offenders to stay away from society! So what is the big deal? PS: Truckers do not get prior approval to park in Walmart lots, that is a well known Walmart program nationwide.

Other sex offenders have camped at Walmart, which is known for welcoming travelers. Last year a sex offender in North Carolina was arrested after flashing a girl. Like Corry, he was living in his car and had registered his address at a Walmart parking lot in Wilmington.

"It's an issue for Walmart and anyone who shops there," said Ben David, a North Carolina district attorney. "Walmarts are open 24 hours and the whole community comes there."

Corry's journey from prison to parking lots began in July 2009 when he was released Oregon State Correctional Institution. He served more than six years for first-degree sex abuse for touching the breast of an 11-year-old girl.

When he emerged from prison, his parole officer told him to stay at the Union Gospel Mission in Salem.

The agency offers a bed, food and clothing to help former prisoners ease back into society. In exchange, they're expected to attend chapel services. Corry, an atheist, found that offensive. So he slept under a Salem bridge instead.

Two Marion County parole officers arrested him for breaking the terms of his post-prison supervision and sent him to a work-release center for 13 days. When he came out, he stayed with his sister in Salem.

They had a fight in January, and she threw him out. He said his parole officer arrested him for not indicating he was changing his address, had him thrown in jail and then ordered him to camp out in the Walmart lot.

"He directed me to do it," Corry said, referring to his parole officer Eric Bandonis. "He gave me a curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. in the morning."

Corry said Bandonis popped up at the lot to check up on him.

"He had me open up my van to look for drugs or beer or kids," Corry said.

Bandonis did not return calls seeking comment. The head of Marion County parole and probation, Cmdr. Jeff Wood, said the agency has two organizations, Union Gospel Mission and Stepping Out Ministries, for prisoners upon their release but both are faith-based.

"In a circumstance like Robert's, we have a lack of resources," Wood said. "We can't force people into programs that are faith-based if it goes against that person's belief."

Wood said it's up to the offender then to find a place to stay.

"We don't order people to the Walmart parking lot," Wood said.

But Bandonis did sign off on the arrangement. He signed documents after mandatory monthly visits with Corry, approving the Walmart address on forms signed in March, April, May and June.

Bandonis asked Corry to get Walmart's permission, Corry said. He said he thought he had, asking an employee walking through the lot whether he could sleep in his van overnight. But that person was not the manager and Corry did not say he was a convicted sex offender. He said he wasn't ordered to do that.

Many Walmart stores -- but not all -- welcome travelers.

"We do allow it if you have permission from the store manager," said Dianna Gee, a company spokeswoman. "This person did not have permission."

Signs in the Salem lot, which is equipped with security cameras, ban overnight camping. But employees say travelers are welcome, and parking spaces are marked for RVs.

At daybreak one recent morning, about a dozen pickups, vans and motorhomes with license plates from Pennsylvania to Montana and Washington state were parked in the lot on Turner Road in Southeast Salem, their owners asleep.

"We do allow it if you have permission from the store manager," said Dianna Gee, a company spokeswoman. "This person did not have permission."

Walmart found out about Corry after a reporter for The Oregonian asked about him.

"When we heard about it, we were very disturbed," Gee said. "We began working with law enforcement to make sure this individual won't be allowed on our property again." ..Source.. by Lynne Terry, The Oregonian

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately,there are way too many of these types of articles.Most of society ignores what happens to the lives of FSO's, claiming "When they did that to a child they gave up thier rights,and the only thing they deserve is to be shot"! Now of course, lawmakers,the media and law enforcement know differently but they just allow the HATE and VENGENCE to fester by not letting the people know that EVEN FSO's still have rights in America(albiet very few these days). Oregon would be yet ANOTHER State I won't be moving to any time soon.
I thank GOD many times a day for blessing me with a REAL family and the State I live in. eAdvocate just opened a new section in the community room which deals with moving to another state.I recommend you read it if you are planning to move from your current state. Peace to all!