In his 15 years housing people coming out of prison, Mike Cross has had to turn many people away.
Cross, director of Oregon City-based nonprofit Free on the Outside, which provides housing and recovery for formerly incarcerated individuals, knows what strings to pull to get people housed. While working in Hillsboro west of Portland, he successfully sheltered people of all criminal backgrounds.
But those he turns away often have one thing in common: Their names are on Oregon’s Sex Offender Registry.
“I got housing for guys that committed murder — easy, no problem,” said Cross, 63. “Robbery, drug dealing, identity theft, almost anything, I could find 10 beds a day. I had a hard time finding one bed a week for someone with a sex offense.”
Recent proposals in Oregon and Washington aim to increase community notification when offenders move to an area. In Oregon, a bill introduced this year would have expanded the state’s public registry to include lower-level offenders. In Washington, proposed legislation would have required public notification and meetings before the state could make plans to house high-risk offenders in a community.
But Cross, and other advocates and service providers in the Northwest, say sex offender registration and notification laws meant to protect the public are keeping registrants on the streets, where lack of safe shelter and treatment makes them more likely to reoffend.
My written response to the article:
In general, Kelsey Turner’s excellent May 25th article about sex offender housing serves to dispel many of the fear-based myths regarding sex offenders. However she made the same oversight that I have seen many others do in quoting the 2019 Bureau of Justice Statistics report.
That report does say that “released sex offenders are more than three times as likely to be re-arrested for rape or sexual assault than other released prisoners.” Note that footnote 1 of that report states, ‘For this report, “sex offenders” refers to released prisoners whose most serious commitment offense was rape or sexual assault.’ Those persons represent a very small subset of sex offenders and may arguably be more likely to commit a rape or sexual assault than other released prisoners, including other sex offenders.
Omitting that subtle point leaves the impression that ALL sex offenders are at a heightened risk of committing rape or sexual assault.
Supporters believe that the community has a right to know about sexually violent neighbors, however most on the registry aren’t sexually violent. Stop using a broad brush to paint registrants with the one size fits all and actually look at the decades of evidence against these policies. On what planet does it make sense to leave someone homeless and believe they are protecting the public.
OR, WA is it little behind but in due time they’ll be up to speed just like California, Florida and everywhere else in the United States.
The registry is no joke, we can try to remain optimistic or positive about the situation but at the end of the day, if you’re on the registry it’s almost impossible to survive in today’s society.