Monday, September 28, 2009

Survivor: Sex Predator Edition

I'm sure my friends and family over in Marietta are going to love this.

Homeless Georgia Sex Offenders Directed to Woods:

MARIETTA, Ga. — A small group of homeless sex offenders have set up camp in a densely wooded area behind a suburban Atlanta office park, directed there by probation officers who say it's a place of last resort for those with nowhere else to go.

Nine sex offenders live in tents surrounding a makeshift fire pit in the trees behind a towering "no trespassing" sign, waiting out their probation sentences as they face numerous living restrictions under one of the nation's toughest sex offender policies.

"It's kind of like a mind-game, it's like 'Survivor,'" said William Hawkins, a 34-year-old who said he was directed to the campsite two weeks ago after being released from prison for violating probation by failing to register as a sex offender in Georgia.

The muddy camp on the outskirts of prosperous Cobb County is an unintended consequence of Georgia law, which bans the state's 16,000 sex offenders from living, working or loitering within 1,000 feet of schools, churches, parks and other spots where children gather.

I wrote about madness like this a few months ago, down in Florida.

The tent city is similar to one in south Florida, where dozens of sex offenders moved under a remote bridge because it was among the few places that complied with local ordinances. Florida officials say the sex offenders found the bridge on their own, while some residents of the camp dispute that.

In Georgia, however, [Ahmed Holt, manager of the state's sex offender administration] said state probation officers have directed homeless offenders into the woods.

"While having an offender located in a camp area is not ideal, the greater threat lies in homeless offenders that are not a specified location and eventually absconding supervision with their whereabouts unknown," he said.

So putting them in some office park's back yard, under the stars, doesn't "abscond supervision"?

Several of the sex offenders in the camp said they did a double-take when their probation officers told them about the outpost.

"Even the probation officer, he looked at me and said there's nothing he can do," said Levertice Johnson, a 52-year-old who moved to the woods after he couldn't find a job and couldn't afford $60 a week for rent at an Atlanta shelter. "He knows it's wrong."

Some of the homeless sex offenders living in the woods say the rugged conditions make life seem hopeless.

"I'm living like an animal. It's just bad," said Johnson, who was convicted in 2002 of child molestation. "You can't clean up, you can't clean yourself, you can't do nothing. I'd rather be dead. I'm serious. I'd rather be dead."

So would the state of Georgia, apparently. Let's just hope they remove the bodies and actually bury them rather than allowing them to decompose "out in the woods."

UPDATE: In response to the hue and cry of yesterday's AJC story, the campers have apparently been ordered to de-camp from their East Cobb digs. As the story notes, no one is sure "where the sex offenders would go next."

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