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Proposed Oklahoma law could force some sex offenders in a mobile home park to move into tents

If the Gov. signs this bill, and it is likely she will, this places the public MORE AT RISK and there isn't a single reason why it should be done. The latest lawmaker effort DOES NOT resolve a problem, it CREATES additional problems, and for that reason alone she should not sign the bill. She ought to force lawmakers to resolve the problem not create further problems. Actions such as this are nothing more than Legislative Vigilantism!

There isn't a single study to show that, allowing former offenders to live together is bad, but there is a study showing that, to do so is actually good because offenders monitor each other (Colorado's "Shared Living Arrangement" study), and former offenders want those that violate the shared principle OUT! i.e., they turn them in to authorities.

4-30-2011 Oklahoma:

The Oklahoma House and Senate this week passed Senate Bill 852, closing a loophole used by Hand Up Ministries to house multiple registered sex offenders in its 69 mobile homes and 50 travel trailers in south Oklahoma City. The measure is awaiting approval from Gov. Mary Fallin.

Carol Barber came to Hand Up Ministries five years ago out of prison with no money, no job and no place to lay his head.

He was a middle-age, registered sex offender, having been convicted in 1998 of molestation and attempted rape.

Barber, 64, lives in a mobile home park operated by Hand Up Ministries in south Oklahoma City. The park is being targeted by legislation intended to limit the number of sex offenders living there, but it might inadvertently turn it into a tent city.

“I had nothing and no place to go right out of prison,” Barber said. “No one wants a sex offender living next door to them, but where are we supposed to be? We have this place to help us, and now the politicians want to take it away from us.”

About 250 sex offenders live in the 14-acre park at 2130 SE 59.

The House and Senate this week passed Senate Bill 852, closing a loophole used by Hand Up Ministries to house multiple registered sex offenders in its 69 mobile homes and 50 travel trailers. The measure is awaiting approval from Gov. Mary Fallin.

Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, said no one is shutting the ministry, but it will be required to abide by the law that prohibits more than one sex offender from living in the same home. Jolley, the bill’s author, said the ministry might have to scale down its operation, and some will have to find other places to live.

“I’m not overly concerned,” Jolley said. “From my standpoint, that’s not my problem. My problem is to protect the people they live around.”

Tent meeting

Residents of the mobile home park gathered Thursday evening around a large, open tent squished between two mobile homes. Many carried Bibles, prayer cards and a look of worry about where they would live if they have to leave.

The Rev. David Nichols, Hand Up Ministries founder and director, told the men no one will be forced out, but about two-thirds will have to live in tents on the site until other housing can be found.

James Topolski, 58, said he will likely be one of those living in a tent, but he doesn’t plan to leave.

“I’m thankful this place is here, because I’d be living under a bridge if it weren’t,” he said.

Topolski was convicted of lewd acts with a child and released from prison four months ago.

Nichols said those that have paid their program dues regularly likely will be allowed to continue to live in the mobile homes and trailers while others camp. Residents are required to contribute $100 a week to the program, which covers rent, utilities and help with transportation and other expenses, he said.

He said as many as 70 men a week have been unable to pay their program dues, but their expenses are subsidized by dues paid by the others until they can get on their feet and get a job.

Nichols said another solution would be to recruit more ex-convicts who are not sex offenders into the program. Those men could share the three-bedroom mobile homes with one registered sex offender. This would allow the ministry to generate program fees to fund additional housing, he said.

Nichols said he’s been accused of using the ministry as a front for a moneymaking venture.

“Someone at the Capitol said this place was making $250,000 a month, but that couldn’t be further from the truth,” Nichols said. “Every nickel goes back into the ministry, and there isn’t much left over after the bills are paid.”

Nichols said he draws a $3,000 monthly paycheck from Hand Up Ministry but will likely have to give that up until the housing situation improves for the men.

Jolley said he questions whether it’s an actual ministry because it’s not supported by a church or a charitable organization. He has not visited the trailer park, he said.

Oklahoma City Police Chief Bill Citty said in December his department determined that only 56 of the registered sex offenders living at the mobile home park are from Oklahoma County. The remainder came from other areas of the state, and 20 are from another state.

He said 140 were classified as level three offenders, the highest designation assigned to those who pose a serious risk to the community. ..Source.. by ANN KELLEY

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