Sex offenders face some of the most significant penalties in Alabama and nationwide. Anyone convicted of a sex crime will not only face immediate penalties such as fines or jail time, but will also be forced to register as a sex offender under Megan’s Law. Registry as a sex offender restricts the ability to work certain jobs or live in some neighborhoods. It could also limit the ability to see children or other family members. For many, a sex offender conviction can mean a lifetime battle against the stigma.
Understanding the tough situation faced by many sex offenders, an Alabama pastor set up a reform camp to help society’s unwanted sex offenders. The camp was recently shut down by the Alabama legislature after a law made the refuge illegal. Our Birmingham sex offender defense attorneys are dedicated to helping individuals accused of sex offenses protect their rights. In addition to providing informed and strategic counsel to those accused of sexual abuse, our legal team is abreast of legislative changes that may impact the rights of defendants in Alabama and nationwide.
With the help of inmates, the pastor raised a chapel and parked campers and recreational vehicles to house the men. Since the structure was built, the pastor housed more than 50 convicted sex offenders. This month, the camp shut down after the Alabama legislature passed a law that rendered the refuge illegal. Now the pastor is forced to make the men leave. While the case has raised Constitutional questions about the intervention of the state in the pastor’s religious belief, shutting down the refuge is also creating a hardship for sex offenders who may not have anywhere else to go.
Alabama, like most states, restricts the areas where sex offenders are required to live. Registered sex offenders are not allowed to live within 2,000 feet of a school or day care. They are not able to work or hangout 500 feet from parks, athletic fields or some businesses. This leaves many convicted offenders with a difficulty getting work or finding a place to live. In addition to avoiding certain public and private locations, offenders are also required to report to authorities where they plan to live after release. This means that prisons or jails often hold convicts who can’t prove that they have a legal place to live.
According to records, no one living at the camp has since been arrested or charged with sex-related crimes. One of the problems with forcing the sex offenders out of the county is that they have nowhere to go. Legislators say that having so many ex-convicts with a similar criminal record is a public safety threat. The legislators also claim that the pastor does not have the specialized training or credentials to help deal with them.
The idea came to the minister when he realized that many of the men being released had no place to go. His idea of a sex offender refuge was away from schools or day cares. Many of the prisoners who resided at the camp helped construct the church and all who lived on the refuge were forced to abide by rules, including no smoking or drinking. The men were also not allowed to be charged with any more sex crimes or go back to prison. According to the minister, helping the men was a calling and allowed him to live out his faith. Sex offenders are those rejected by society and need help the most.