Florida Town Offers Housing for Criminal Sex Offenders

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By Kamika Dunlap on December 09, 2009 9:15 AM

Convicted sex offenders don't have many housing options when it comes to finding a place to live.

More than 20 states, including Florida, limit where convicted sex offenders can live -- keeping them away from schools, parks and other places where children congregate.

But 90 miles outside of Miami, in a small city with numerous churches of multiple Christian faiths, convicted sex offenders are welcome.

According to NPR, it's a community dedicated to sex offender housing, and where they can find a new start.

Dick Witherow is pastor at Miracle Park, a church community mostly made up of sex offenders. He his church is open to serve a population has labeled "modern-day lepers."

At Witherow's church, sex offenders on probation attend weekly court-ordered sex therapy sessions. He also offers anger-management classes and sessions on relationships, inner healing and life skills.

Other places around the area are not so welcoming. There are few remaining zones where convicted sex offenders can legally live in Florida.

Miracle Park is located near Pahokee situated along western edge of Palm Beach County.

Because the church is outside of the city limits and there isn't much local officials can do about it.

Many states are dealing with problems surrounding sex offender housing. In urban settings legal residential areas for sex offenders is severely limited. That's also the case sometimes even in rural areas with greater distances between schools.

In California, as previously discussed, Jessica's Law has come under review by the state supreme court. Jessica's law severely restricts where sexual offenders can live after they are released from prison. In doing so, many sex offenders cannot find housing in urban areas across the state and often are forced into homelessness.

Critics have said residency restrictions were counterproductive, particularly because of a surge in registered sex offenders declaring themselves transients, making it more difficult to track their whereabouts.

Kentucky is also grappling with its rules on sex offender housing.

Attorney General Jack Conway is Kentucky Supreme Court to review a ruling that loosened restrictions on where convicted sex offenders can live.

The state Supreme Court held that the law (which bans sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of schools, daycare centers, playgrounds)  is unconstitutional because lawmakers applied it retroactively to sex offenders convicted before the law was on the books.

Conway has until Dec. 30 to file a motion seeking the federal court's review, a move he says he'll do.