Tag Archives: Julia Tuttle Causeway

Back to Square One

There is new news In the continuing saga of the infamous Julia Tuttle Causeway turned homeless shelter.  As reported today in the Miami Herald, a judge has rejected the ACLU’s attempt to block enforcement of the sex offender law that was responsible for creating the controversial shantytown of registered sex offenders who, because of the law’s restrictive provisions, were prohibited from living elsewhere.  It is interesting to see the spin the ACLU used in its argument before the court – that, it sought to block enforcement of the law because only then would officials be able to properly and effectively track the whereabouts of sex offenders.  I would argue that this is precisely the ill that has to be remedied.  But what do I know?

The story in the Herald can be found here.

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UPDATE: Registered Sex Offenders Will Be Moved From Under Miami’s Julia Tuttle Bridge

I saw this on the Crime Report the other day:

Facing growing criticism over 70 registered sex offenders living in squalid conditions under a bridge, Miami-Dade officials and homeless advocates say they are working to relocate them to housing, the Miami Herald reports. In the first step, eight camp dwellers will be moved to a private apartment building in coming days, and officials are looking for a bigger place for the remaining people to be housed, said Ronald Book of Miami-Dade’s Homeless Trust, who is leading the effort.

Some of those living under the bridge are skeptical of Book’s latest plan. Homer Barkley, 45, said he would be worried if he lived under the same roof as other sex offenders. “I have done my time for what they said I did. Now I want the chance to lead a normal life,” Barkley said. The encampment primarily houses registered sex offenders, mostly men, who cannot find residences elsewhere. That’s because a host of county and city laws prohibit them from living within 2,500 feet of where children congregate — including schools, parks and day care facilities. “It’s a public safety issue,” said Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle. “They are living in inhumane conditions. It’s not safe for them — and it’s not safe for others.”

The next step would be to re-consider the wisdom of a policy of isolating so-called sex offenders.  I don’t think that does anything to re-integrate them into society.  And, as evidenced by the recent debacle in Miami, it doesn’t make the community safer either.  The only thing such policies really do is alienate those who have already reached their threshold of unjust treatment.  Which, in turn, manifests itself in more anti-social behavior.

Bridge Over Troubled Laws

Photo courtesy of Nanaimo Daily News (Carlos Barria)

Photo courtesy of Nanaimo Daily News (Carlos Barria)

News sources are reporting on a lawsuit filed in Miami by the ACLU challenging a county ordinance that prevents convicted sex offenders from living within 2,500 feet of where children congregate.  The Miami Herald has the story here, the N.Y. Times, here.

An excerpt from the Miami-Herald…

A multipronged legal battle erupted Thursday over the growing colony of sex offenders forced to live under the Julia Tuttle Causeway.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida sued Miami-Dade County, arguing that the state’s rule that sex offenders must live at least 1,000 feet from where children congregate supersedes the county’s stricter 2,500-foot ordinance.

Then the city of Miami prepared to sue the state for placing the offenders — whose legal addresses are under the causeway — too close to a barrier island that it considers a park.

Though no one has proposed a solution, the ACLU and the city say they simply want to clean up the shantytown that is spilling out from under the bridge, and find those living there a respectable and safe place to live. Under the 2,500-foot law, convicted sex offenders have no other place to live in the county that does not violate the rule.

The vagrants — many of them homeless felons — live in shacks in a no-man’s land that has generated national debate over the consequences of residency laws for sex offenders.

The consensus among those in power is that there is a problem but no one can agree on a solution.  Reports the N.Y. Times…

John Timoney, the Miami police chief, said that on the Fourth of July, several officers used a stun gun against a man under the bridge who, in a fit of depression, began cutting himself with a knife, apparently in a suicide attempt. Chief Timoney predicted more violence.

He said he had told city, state and county officials that the men (only one or two women live there) needed to be moved to more permanent homes, even if it meant changing one or more laws. He has gotten mostly studies in return, along with politicians accusing one another of shirking responsibility.

“It’s like a hot potato,” Chief Timoney said. “Everyone is just passing it on.”

This is perhaps another example of how popular laws make bad laws.  The Times picked up a great quote from a law professor who studies sex offender laws, saying how  residency restrictions which have led to the current crisis “are always universally popular.  The public loves it.”

And now the public is paying the price for its paranoiac love-fest.

As a side note, I have to disagree with the comment made by a Miami City commissioner, as reported in the Herald, that the governor of New York would be “impeached the next day” if he ordered all sex offenders to be placed under the Brooklyn Bridge.  First, with the chaos in Albany at the moment, I doubt anyone would notice.  Second, given the ineptitude of David Patterson thus far in his term as governor, he might get a standing ovation just for having done something.