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Sex offenders among homeless population

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Ted Sullivan
December 30, 2009
— Sex offenders who can’t get jobs or rent apartments are becoming homeless, a problem Rock County officials might tackle next year.

The Rock County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council could form a work group in January to address the problem, said Elizabeth Pohlman McQuillen, Rock County’s criminal justice planner and analyst.


About 400 convicted sex offenders live in Rock County, according to the state Department of Corrections. It is unknown how many of them are homeless.


Employers and landlords often conduct background checks on applicants, including searches on Web sites such as Wisconsin’s online court records system and sex offender registries, said Brad Munger, crisis intervention supervisor.


Convicted sex offenders trying to re-enter the community often have trouble because their criminal history is online, Munger said.


“It’s a huge problem for people who have a sex-offender history,” he said. “They simply just can’t get employment; they can’t get residence, and as a result, they end up homeless.”


When sex offenders get turned away, they could go to nonprofit organizations or shelters for help, McQuillen said. However, those groups often won’t accept serious criminals.


“There is nowhere for these people to go,” she said. “No one will take them.”


Offenders trying to rehabilitate and rejoin society often live in a cheap motel or car if they can’t rent a home, Munger said.


“It kind of sets people up for failure,” he said. “It’s a real conundrum.”


And, if people get in desperate situations, they are more likely to re-offend, he said. Offenders with a stable job and home are more likely to succeed.


If a work group is formed, it could study the prevalence of homeless sex offenders and research potential solutions, Munger said.


John Dipko, a state Department of Corrections spokesman, said sex offenders under supervision in Rock County are not homeless.


The state, however, doesn’t track offenders off supervision as closely.


Offenders have to provide an address for the registry, Dipko said. The state does its best to keep the registry accurate.


The criminal justice council is scheduled to meet Thursday, Jan. 21, to discuss the issue.



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