Overcoming housing barriers for sex offenders

Sex offenders remain some of the most difficult to place in the labor market

Release into the community from a correctional setting is a daily struggle, even when you have only been incarcerated for a short period. Many of the responsibilities and basic needs that were met while in the community are often much harder to gain back with a criminal background.

Policies regarding employment and housing of ex-convicts vary from state to state. There are varying perceptions in the philosophy of continued punishment, or allowing for those barriers to be overcome.

In addressing the constant and growing problem of the parolee population in terms of employment and housing, sex offenders remain some of the most difficult to place in the labor market. Finding appropriate and suitable housing in terms of their parole stipulations and landlord’s willingness to rent to current and prior felons remain some of the key issues. 

Meeting parole requirements and other issues
Sex offenders often have additional parole stipulations, which make it even more difficult for them to find stable housing. Even if stable housing is found, it’s most likely found in a dangerous or crime-infested neighborhood, decreasing their chances for success in the community. Housing for sex offenders should be utilized through Prisoner Re-entry programs; the community as a whole needs to work with these organizations.

Typically, private landlords and transitional housing programs can alleviate the pressure on sex offenders in finding more stable housing. Also, working with parole agents who supervise these sex offenders can help establish an acceptable or felony-friendly housing list, which should be maintained by the parole agent, the landlords, or the non-profit organizations who provide the housing services. 

Addressing parole stipulations is also important in understanding what barriers exist in sex offenders search for suitable housing. Typically, sex offenders are required to register at their local police and/or sheriff’s department quarterly and to register any new addresses, cars, places of employment, email addresses, and phone numbers.

This population also can only reside within a certain amount of feet from a school or playground. What I have seen is a sex offender must not reside with 1,000 – 2,000 feet of any school or playground.

Parole agents are the ones responsible for the housing placement of sex offenders and if proper housing is not located, they must remain in jail as is it against the law for them not to have an address. Homeless shelters now have been the main focus in the media due to varying concerns that sex offenders are staying their temporarily.

Some of these homeless shelters are within the 1,000 – 2,000 foot range of schools and parks set forth by most parole conditions amongst the sex offender population, however some judges have managed to set forth precedence allowing them to stay at the shelters.

A final issue with the residing within a school zone or park rule is that some schools or parks may even be closed, thus creating a need for exceptions to the rule to be made. If schools and parks are closed and there is no activity in the area from minors or families, why should this prevent them from residing within that area?

Working together to find solutions
It’s apparent after reading this article that the community as a whole needs to work together to provide housing resources to sex offenders re-entering the community.

Non-profit organizations, parole agents, private landlords, and church organizations are examples of community members that can help alleviate the pressures of those entering the community seeking stable and affordable housing.

Prisoner Re-entry programs in general need to address this concern regarding sex offenders as this will become a growing problem, especially since most of them will be released in the near future after serving a long sentence.

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