August 9, 2015

Sex offenders having hard time finding places to live

8-9-15 Kentucky:

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Advocates for sex offenders who need medical care say a state law that requires them to have a legal residence to go to before they're released from prison is keeping them behind bars because they can't find places to live.

The Courier-Journal reports ( that Kentucky law requires sex offenders to provide in writing their planned residence during a five-year period of conditional release 180 days before they're released from prison.

But offenders like 40-year-old Michael Blaine Wolfe, who needs nursing care, are having a tough time finding places to stay.

Wolfe, who suffered brain damage in an accident as a teenager and uses a wheelchair, served his eight-year sentence for sexual abuse and should have been released from prison over a year ago. But he's still behind bars and could be for up to four more years.

The Corrections Department said none of the 310 places it has contacted to house Wolfe has been willing to accept him.

Another sex offender, Frank Boswell, who served out his sentence for rape and sexual abuse on May 25 and is "near death," according to his public defender, was able to find an approved placement last month at a nursing home in Henry County.

However, attorney Melanie Lowe said it is unfair to hold inmates after they've done their time solely because they can't find nursing care at a legal address. Sex offenders cannot live within 1,000 feet of a school, day care center or publicly owned playground.

"It is so frustrating that they are just stuck," Lowe said.

Finding legal places to live for sex offenders, especially those who require medical treatment, is a growing problem nationally, experts say. Illinois keeps 1,250 parolees behind bars because of a shortage of housing, and most are sex offenders, the Chicago Tribune reported in January.

The MacArthur Justice Center at Northwestern University law school, which has fought unsuccessfully in court to end the practice, says it is discriminatory because most of the affected offenders are poor.

"If you have money, you rent an apartment where it is legal," said staff attorney Alexa van Brunt.

Kentucky State Sen. Brent Yonts, D-Greenville, sponsored a bill creating the conditional release for sex offenders in 1998. It was the year after an inmate who had recently been released from prison after serving time for sexually abusing two young cousins abducted, assaulted, stabbed and drowned a 16-year-old girl who lived in Yonts' district.

Yonts said in an interview that his primary goal was to keep something over the heads of offenders who disputed their crimes and didn't complete sex offender counseling in prison. He said he also wanted to ensure all sex offenders registered at a legal address.

Keeping infirm inmates in prison because they can't find places in nursing homes "is not what I originally contemplated," Yonts said.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said he is pushing for the state to contract with a secure nursing home that would treat sex offenders and other former inmates who require medical care. He believes the state could save as much as $10 million a year in reduced medical costs. ..Source.. by

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