Several communities are realizing the difficulty many ex-offenders have with keeping in line with their parole restrictions. Most parole agreements rest on the ability of parole officers to be able to find and contact parolees. Sex-offenders have additional restrictions on how close they can be to schools or other locations that children may gather. What some don’t realize is that these parole restrictions, combined with the difficulty in finding an employer willing to hire an ex-offender, make it very difficult for people who have served their time to find housing and be productive members of the community.
An editorial from the LA Times notes that homeless ex-offenders are much harder to track. The author also contends that by not providing adequate housing, laws like Jessica’s Law, that are meant to protect the community from sexual offenders, might actually harm the community, and could be deemed unconstitutional.
In fact, an appeals court in Alabama ruled last week that a homeless ex-offender was “punished for being homeless.” The State law that requires that sex-offenders register an address before leaving prison can now not be applied to someone who is homeless and does not have the means to find housing. The prisoner in the original case had no family or other housing waiting for him after serving his sentence, so he was arrested immediately after being released, just for being homeless.
Many ex-offenders end up in the shelter system, but this often causes more problems for both the criminal justice and social service systems. So should the justice system provide housing for inmates who have served their time but cannot find meet parole guidelines?