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Where does a homeless sex offender charge their GPS devise?
Sounds alot like an opening line of a bad joke. But it’s not a joke, nothing to laugh at. It’s an unfortunate reality for many homeless sex offenders in California and I imagine other states as well. Law enforcement agencies make no provisions for homeless registrants who are shackled with ankle GPS monitors while on parole or probation to power up their devices.
A recent article out of the USA Today Network deals with this dilemma in some California towns. Businesses don’t want the homeless plugging into store outlets and “stealing” the electricity the store pays for, they don’t want them taking up valuable space, buying nothing and scaring away customers. Some city officials have shut down power to major venues during off hours to prevent the homeless from powering up there.
The one place cities can’t shut down is the public library and this is exactly where parole officers are directing their charges to find an outlet to plug in to.
Libraries are usually centrally located, they’re open most of the day and on weekends. Parole officers have no problem suggesting to those they oversee that the library is the place to go, there are power outlets in areas that are “away” from the children’s section, for a homeless registrant, charging up there “should” be OK. Of course in some towns in some states, registrants are already banned from using the public library. What are they supposed to do?
As you can imagine, city and library officials are none too happy with this “charge up at the library” arrangement. They don’t want transients hanging around the library and they definitely don’t want transient sex offenders there, especially when they are coming in to charge their devices twice a day. The library officials maintain that they have no agreement with the city to act as a charging station for transients. For homeless registrants who are trying to do the right thing, topping-off the charge on their devices is a neccesity to remain out of jail, the last thing they need or want in the middle of the night is a low battery.
I’ve seen plenty of people at our local library reading, working on computers, writing papers,etc. Why is it then that when a homeless person is in the library they are automatically just “hanging around”? Homelessness and sex offender doesn’t mean illiterate. Does it ever occur to anyone in public office or on the library staff that while charging their ankle monitors some of these people may be enjoying a good book? Isn’t that what the public library is there for? No one seems to be complaining if someone who’s not a registrant is charging their computer or cell phone, their “necessities” in life. Why should it be any different for someone whose “necessity” happens to be an ankle GPS monitor?
In the minds of city officials it’s only a matter of time before more and more transients will be using the library as a place to just hang out, like tent cities in public parks and then no one else will use the library for it’s intended purpose. There is also the matter of safety according to city police officials, the library has a children’s section, the public will become scared to use it if it is frequented by sex offenders.
Let’s be real, anyone can be at the library. Murderers, thieves, kidnappers, you don’t know. If the general public thinks sex offenders are their biggest fear, they had better look around. There’s plenty of scarier people out there and they don’t wear signs letting you know who they are or what they’re capable of. They could be in the children’s section right now. How would you know?
So what’s a homeless registrant to do?
Local law enforcement facilities such as jails, which would seem like the most obvious place to allow homeless registrants to come to re-charge, was an option discussed in some towns several years ago, but this idea has since been taken off the table. The concern here is that many of those sex offenders monitored by GPS are considered “high-risk” and their being at the jail to charge their devices could put children visiting incarcerated relatives at the jail at risk.
This has me scratching my head, does law enforcement not realize that the “risk to children” they are concerned about should be “less” at the jail. If someone wanted to hurt a child would they choose a place like the local jail, where there are police all around, to commit the crime? This makes no sense at all. I rather tend to believe it’s more of a “not in my backyard attitude” by law enforcement. They just don’t want to have homeless registrants coming to their place of work, their “second home”, just to power-up.
California seems to have not thought thru the “ankle monitor GPS for the homeless” plan. Where did they think homeless sex offenders were going to charge these devices?. Homeless means you have no home, no electricity. DUH.
Who comes up with these plans?
And now the public and the library are left wondering about the government’s quick fixes to problems of their own making.
Law enforcement does what it always does, puts the burden, under threat of re-incarceration, on the homeless offender to find a source of power.
Where’s the justice in that? Isn’t it bad enough that they are homeless. Now they are somehow supposed to create a source of electricity for their ankle monitor.
It’s not as if the parole officers don’t know their clients are homeless. Tent cities, cardboard boxes, highway under-passes, vacant lots, they don’t usually come with outlets and electricity.
If courts and law enforcement are going to dole out the punishment of a GPS ankle monitor for homeless sex offenders, then it seems they should also be responsible for providing a 24/7 designated place for those offenders to charge their devices, free of charge. The registrants are probably already paying a monthly fee for the pleasure of wearing the ankle bracelet.
The irony in all of this is that the homeless registrants were probably made homeless due to the registry.
If we get rid of the registry, then registrants can find jobs, find housing and pay for electricity so they can keep their GPS monitors powered up.
The solution is so simple. Why do politicians and government officials make it seem so hard?