April 16, 2015

At Dallas' Once Stylish Cabana Motor Hotel, Ex-Prisoners Struggle to Re-Enter the World

4-16-15 Texas:

In an East Dallas efficiency roughly the size of the prison cell where he once lived, John Whiteman has finally found a home. His neighbors in the rundown apartment building are former inmates like him.

The apartments are like dorm rooms at what would be a very seedy college. A shelf against one wall in Whiteman's room, bearing a microwave and coffee maker, serves as a kitchen. A bed, television and chairs take up most of the remaining space. An ankle monitor ensures that Whiteman never goes anywhere off-path.

He will register as a sex offender until he dies.

Unlikely to ever have a job — no one will hire a 70-year-old convicted child kidnapper who has spent the past three decades behind bars — Whiteman relies on Social Security to cover his rent and pay for his state-mandated sex offender therapy. People used to protest his parole, he says, but by the time he had his last hearing before his parole in 2014, the people who had cared about the case had died or moved away. Whiteman says that a local politician still in Dallas used to fight his parole, but now appears to have lost interest in the case. "I guess he just figured I was old enough that I'd be through with that behavior, and I am," Whiteman says. "I still have to be very careful. I don't want to try to contact anybody that's connected to my case ... but this has been 32 years ago, I have no idea who they are or where they are."

Before being convicted in 1982 in Dallas in the kidnappings of two boys, one 9 years old, the other 5, Whiteman says he lived in a three-bedroom studio in North Dallas, with a good income, two cars, a van and a boat. "And it didn't make me happy."

His life today is spartan, and though he's out of prison, he's not quite a free man. Texas considers him a high-risk offender and requires Whiteman to fill out a schedule of his activities a week in advance. Stray too far from his new apartment without a scheduled appointment, and he could be bounced back into prison. ..Continued.. by Amy Silverstein

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