In Miami, a causeway in the middle of Biscayne Bay has become home to one of the county's least desirable populations: sex offenders.
What began a few years ago as a stopgap solution has become de facto public policy. For sex offenders with few resources who want to stay in Miami, there's just one option: an encampment of tents and shacks on the Julia Tuttle Causeway.
The encampment got started a few years ago, when Miami-Dade County, like other communities across the country, adopted an ordinance banning sex offenders from living within 2,500 feet of anywhere that children gather.
It's a law that applies not just to sex offenders on probation but also to felons who have served their time — people like 31-year-old Juan Martin. He served an eight-year sentence for exposing himself to a teenaged girl.
After Martin got out of prison in 2006, his probation officer brought him to what at that time was just a small camp of several men and a few tents under the bridge on the causeway. After three years of living here, he's angry. He says, "The state is forcing you to live like an animal."
Right now, 67 people live here. And nearly every week, probation officers drop off sex offenders, recently released, who have nowhere else to go.
Voncel Johnson recently became the first woman who was told she'd have to live under the bridge. She says when her probation officer dropped her off at the camp, it was unexpected and frightening."I'm thinking she's bringing me to a three-quarter-way house," Johnson recalls. "But when I got here it was … pitch dark. The first thing I saw was men, and I'm the only lady here. … I broke down.
The fact is, about half the counties in Florida now have an ordinance similar to the one in Miami. There are fewer and fewer places sex offenders can legally live in the state after they are released from prison.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Thursday, May 07, 2009
So, for the past few days, Jayden has been waking up between 10pm and 1am with screaming terrors. Won't say anything except "scary!", throwing his arms out, growling, crying... lasts about 10-15 minutes usually till he gets calmed down. Never remembers the dreams of course!
Tonight, he came out at 1:30am, comes over, and says, "Daddy, it started out good, but then it was bad, and ellie went to the no-bridge." Poking and prodding, he tells me his dream was about a gate with 2 fences, but the gate had a no-bridge, and when ellie (Eliana) went on the no-bridge, she fell into off the cliff. That's when he woke up.
He says this is the same dream he has been having... no wonder he's waking up! I can't tell you how many times I've woken near screaming from watching him fall off a cliff in a dream!