Friday, March 7, 2014
The Guy Next Door
By Keith Edwards firstname.lastname@example.org
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Bruce King according to a mugshot taken by the Maine Department of Corrections, possibly in 2003. Maine Department of Corrections
Maine Department of Corrections
But it’s not exclusively an in-town issue. Out in the more suburban area of the city, at 458 Riverside Drive, four sex offenders rent units at the Country Village Motel and Apartments.
Discriminating against sex offenders by not renting to them is not illegal. Criminals are not a protected classification when it comes to housing discrimination.
“We treat everyone fairly and equally, we don’t discriminate against anyone,” Pepin said. “We check references, we have safeguards in place. If someone doesn’t behave, for any reason, or they’re going to be harmful to other tenants, we evict them. Overall, I’d say (sex offenders) are fine, just like the rest of the people we rent to. If you pay your rent, are kind and decent and behave, they can stay with us forever.”
Mayor William Stokes, who is also deputy attorney general and head of the criminal division of the Maine attorney general’s office, said the 115 sex offenders in a city of nearly 20,000 people make up a relatively small percentage of the population, but can have an impact beyond their numbers.
“The financial costs to the city are not as big as the cost of the perception of the city, when people believe we have an unwarranted number of sex offenders,” Stokes said, noting the city is also home to Riverview Psychiatric Center, the state’s only hospital for people who have committed violent criminal acts but been deemed not responsible for their actions because of mental incompetence. “We understand that, as the capital city, we’re going to have some burdens other communities don’t have.
People in Augusta feel we’ve taken our share of the burden, and then some.”
Containment and stable housing
Sex offenders living in the city and contacted for this story declined comment. Most offenders on the registry have either unlisted or disconnected phone numbers. Efforts were made to reach out to offenders through probation officers, police, advocates, phone calls, in person visits and social media.
The Rev. Stan Moody, a former prison chaplain who still works with current and former inmates as they re-enter society, said most offenders, once they’re out of prison and have established themselves in the community, don’t want to bring up their past as a sex offender.
Gregoire said Detective Matt Clark spends at least every Tuesday and Thursday morning dealing with sex offender issues, such as updating the registry, and doing notifications to neighbors when a sex offender moves into their area.
Gregoire said city police do some type of notification whenever a sex offender moves into a neighborhood. How much notification they do depends on how much of a risk the sex offender is believed to pose.
Kennebec County Sheriff Randall Liberty said the sheriff’s office overseas some 80 sex offenders in the rural areas of county. He says doing so takes staff time, in doing spot checks, fingerprinting, and processing records.
“But it’s a legitimate public safety issue, and we’re glad to do it,” Liberty said. “We try to keep them away from schools, playgrounds, those kinds of places.”
Landry said higher risk sex offenders released from prison are supervised by probation officers who specialize in sex offenders. They take what he calls a containment approach, involving a team made up of the probation officer, a sex offender therapist, law enforcement agencies and sometimes even the landlord of the offender.
“It’s a team approach to monitoring behaviors and ensuring accountability,” he said. “If they start to slip, it’s caught quickly.”
Moody said the corrections system has a “pretty well-oiled” system for helping inmates leaving prison find housing.
“It’s a very difficult situation for someone, coming out of prison, if you’re fortunate, you’ve got $60 and a bus ticket to Augusta,” said Moody, a former Manchester resident now living in the Bangor area. “Corrections will direct you to a landlord resource pretty quickly. They’ll point you to various sources of assistance. The question is, how good is the accommodation? A lot of these guys, they’re broke when they come out of there.”
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click image to enlarge
388 Water Street in Augusta.
Staff photo by Andy Molloy