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RI: Lawsuit seeks to block R.I. law limiting number of sex offenders in homeless shelters

[providencejournal.com]

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — An advocacy group for the homeless is asking a federal judge to block a Rhode Island law set to go into effect Monday that limits the number of convicted sex offenders who can stay at Rhode Island homeless shelters.

In a lawsuit against the state filed Friday in U.S. District Court, lawyers representing the Rhode Island Homeless Advocacy Project and six registered sex offenders argue that the law passed in September is unconstitutional and violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The suit asks for an injunction preventing the state from enforcing the new law’s 10-percent limit on the number of shelter beds that can be given to registered sex offenders.

It focuses on people who now stay at Harrington Hall in Cranston, the state-owned shelter operated by Crossroads Rhode Island that has become a place of last resort for sex offenders whose options for housing have been limited by increasingly strict residency laws.

Displeasure among Cranston lawmakers with the number of sex offenders staying at Harrington Hall prompted the 10-percent bill.

“As a direct result of the 10 percent Restriction, many of the Plaintiffs have been or will be denied shelter at Harrington Hall and will be required to sleep or camp on the streets, even when there are beds available to accommodate them and notwithstanding the operator’s willingness to do so,” said the suit, filed by a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island. “Being forced into un-sheltered homelessness, particularly during the winter months, imposes life-threatening conditions upon the Plaintiffs.”

Harrington Hall has 111 beds, so the 10-percent cap limits it to 11 registered sex offenders staying there per night.

The suit says 49 registered sex offenders stayed at Harrington Hall on Oct. 19 and 32 offenders on Dec. 27.

It argues, among other things, that the 10-percent rule violates the 14th Amendment’s equal-protection clause and unfairly denies disabled sex offenders benefits provided by the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act and the Fair Housing Act.

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  1. Dustin

    Hope they win it, particularly when considering that their residency restrictions led to the homelessness of those SOs in the first place. Pretty audacious of RI to legislate them into homelessness then deny them the services for the homeless that they provide. Wouldn’t be surprised if they made it illegal for a registrant to be homeless like Illinois. Not much difference between that and refusing to release an SO after his sentence is served for not having a place to go, also caused by their residency restrictions.

  2. It doesn’t work

    Is this new law only targeting those forced to register Or other felons as well? Like domestic violence felons and those that have multiple conviction for robbery as these types of convicted felons “may also be” a threat to other residents in that shelter? There is proof about horrific damage to persons and property committed in shelters all over the USA by persons who are NOT registered sex offenders. Nothing to see here people, keep walking. Situation is under control.

    • Michael

      What? Violent criminals are absolutely no threat to the community-at-large. We know this to be true because they don’t have to register as violent offenders… anywhere.

      ….

  3. Michael

    Correct me if I am wrong, but aren’t the Republicans in control of Cranston City Council?

    Just saying.

    ….

    • Dustin

      Michael,

      I have no clue which party runs whatever council or legislature, nor do I care. Even if it is the Republicans, the Democrats created the public registry in the first place (maybe even the LE-only registry that started in the 40’s) and both parties exasperate it every session.

      The SOR goes against the supposed core beliefs of both parties/ideologies. For the Democrats/liberals, it requires (false or not) stereotyping and prejudgment of members of an unprotected or disadvantaged society, and further discrimination or disenfranchisement of that society as a whole. For Republicans/conservatives, it completely contradicts Christian values regarding redemption, expands an already too large federal and local government, and spends too much money on what produces absolutely nothing and so demonstrably fails in its purported intent.

      It should also be noted that legislative members of both parties are either too stupid, ignorant, or cowardly to oppose any anti-SO legislation – or support rarely written pro-SO legislation, actual or perceived – regardless of content and actual/potential effects. I suspect, but don’t know that many of them (of both parties) also make their careers as legislators solely from SO legislation and/or write anti-SO laws to detract from or cover up their own inadequacies, misconduct, or otherwise less-than-distinguishable acts.

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