Civil Liberties

Exile Challenges Banishment of Sex Offenders


Patrick Wiese, a 48-year-old Floridian who "served time in prison after having his stepdaughter touch him inappropriately" (as The New York Times describes his crime), has a driver's license that lists his address as "Julia Tuttle Bridge." Wiese is one of 70 or so sex offenders who live "like post-apocalyptic trolls beneath a bridge in the middle of Biscayne Bay" (as The Miami Herald puts it) because of a Miami-Dade County ordinance that prohibits them from residing within 2,500 feet of a school, day care center, park, or playground. Yesterday the ACLU of Florida filed a suit that challenges the ordinance as inconsistent with state law, which prescribes a distance of 1,000 feet and establishes a system for supervising and rehabilitating sex offenders after they're released from prison. The ACLU argues, quite plausibly, that forcing ex-cons to live under a bridge is not conducive to supervision or rehabilitation. As I noted in March, a similar argument was successful in overturning sex offender residence restrictions imposed by Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.

The lead plaintiff in the Florida lawsuit is named Bryan A. Exile, which I prefer to believe is a wonderful coincidence but may actually be due to post-hoc name change. In any case, it accurately reflects his situation. Laws like this one effectively banish sex offenders from living within the jurisdiction to which they apply, a result that is not necessarily accidental. After the Georgia legislature approved residence restrictions that were ultimately overturned by the state Supreme Court (which noted that "there is no place in Georgia where a registered sex offender can live without being continually at risk of being ejected"), the majority leader of the state House expressed the hope that the rules would be so intolerable that sex offenders "will want to move to another state."

A common response to this attitude is to point out that many people subject to residence restrictions as "sex offenders" are neither rapists nor child molesters and may in fact be guilty of nothing more than having consensual sex with teenagers, often when they themselves were teenagers. One of the Julia Tuttle Bridge residents, for example, "served 17 months in jail for having sex with a 14-year-old when he was 18." But even in the case of sex offenders who are guilty of predatory crimes, it makes no sense to release them and then deliberately push them to the margins of society, making it virtually impossible to lead a normal life. Such treatment is not only counterproductive; it constitutes an additional penalty imposed without due process and for no rational reason. After all, why should someone who committed "lewd and lascivious battery" (Exile's crime) be forced to live under a bridge, while your average mugger, arsonist, or murderer is free to live wherever he wants after he serves his sentence?

The ACLU's complaint is here (PDF). Radley Balko noted the Julia Tuttle shantytown in 2007 and 2008. Other Reason coverage of sex offender residence restrictions here.

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  1. … why should someone who committed “lewd and lascivious battery” (Exile’s crime) be forced to live under a bridge, while your average mugger, arsonist, or murderer is free to live wherever he wants after he serves his sentence?

    Damned good question. We have hysteria* to deal with so it will go unanswered.

    * I apologize for the sexist, misogynist noun.

  2. Really though, it’s not that unusual. We’ve got a pile of laws that essentially continue to punish those convicted even after they’ve “paid their debt to society”. If they’ve paid their debt, then what the fuck is the purpose of not allowing them to vote, own firearms, or any of the other crap? What’s that? Interest?

  3. Why is this so hard for our rulers to understand? All they need to do is separate the true criminal from the group. The person who actually harms another should simply remain in prison for the rest of his or her life, nullifying the need for post-incarceration living restrictions, while the person that is guilty only of stupidity (like 18 screwing 14 with consent, or whacking it in a movie theater) be fined a small fee to remind them of their dumbassery and sent on their way.

  4. Passing laws against “sex offenders” is easy as pie and makes the average douchebag think you’re doing good. Politicians are going to pass this shit like corn with Ex-Lax.

  5. The problem is no politician wants to be known as weakening laws against sex offenders. So taking a leak in public means you have a scarlet A for life.

  6. Making second class citizens is never a good idea and ends well for no one involved.

    I swear more harm has come from the cries of, “SAVE THE CHILDREN” than any other phrase in this country.

  7. This shit drives me crazy. If someone is so bad or dangerous that they cannot live near decent people, that is what prison is for.

  8. If the feds start printing dollars even faster to pay for all those shiny new government programs, many more of us are going to be living under an overpass soon.

    These laws are absurd, but only slightly more absurd than putting drug offenders in prison for decades. The difference is that we can’t as easily ignore these folks. To me, legislators-gone-wild like Jose Diaz are far more of a public threat than even Chester the Molestor.

  9. i tell you though, nothing makes you more popular at a party then arguing that sex offenders are treated unfairly. Especially if you have friends that are parents.

  10. Bryan Exile is the Plaintiff’s birth name.

  11. None of the above popular-will explanations works for why similar measures have not been adopted regarding those who commit other crimes. The only explanation that does work is that sex offenses have been medicalized, so that these are considered public health measures like quarantine rather than punishment. Apparently kleptomania as an explanation for theft didn’t get similar traction.

  12. “served 17 months in jail for having sex with a 14-year-old when he was 18”

    We are spending resources on this?! The people making those decisions should be beaten, tortured, raped, mutilated, and dismembered.

  13. im glad you people are waking up.

  14. Waking up to what, joe*?

    It’s not “our” joe so he probably doesn’t know what this sight is about.

  15. We’ve got a pile of laws that essentially continue to punish those convicted even after they’ve “paid their debt to society”.

    Why can not sex offenders simply be relocated to internment camps similar to those in that Americans of Japanese descent were interned during the 1940’s?

  16. Why can not sex offenders simply be relocated to internment camps similar to those in that Americans of Japanese descent were interned during the 1940’s?

    It’s like Zeb said at 1:42. If they’re that dangerous, then that is an acceptable solution.

    If not, then WTF.

  17. This is all very interesting, comments like, they have paid their debt to society and we keep punishing them. I am a researcher for a Criminal Background Check company named Integrascan. We compile information on criminals for youth organizations under our safe kids program,

    We have found many sex offenders that have not registered and committed crimes in other states such as rape and molestation of children under 6 years old. And they are employed as volunteer coaches, assistant coaches and other youth volunteers. The sex offense laws did not protect the children of these youth organizations, none of these people are providing this information, but are around our kids.

    You all need to take a step back and actually realize that these people are sick, like addicts and they will have this problem for life, do you want them to be within 1000 feet or even 10 feet of your child, regardless of rehabilitation.

    I think that sex offenders should not be within a mile of any building that has children in them

    T. Sweet

  18. No Terry, I think you need to take a step back.

    Recidivism rates of sexual offenders are highly exaggerated. If people choose not to register once they’re out of jail it’s because they want a shot at a normal life. They don’t want to be chased out of their community with torches and pitchforks.

    You will always find exceptions. There are serial rapists and there are sociopaths who can’t internalize guilt. These people need to be evaluated extensively within the system before they are released, so that measures can be taken to protect communities.

    Simply branding every sex offender on to a registry is not a solution. It encourages vigilantism, and creates 2nd class citizens out of people who want to shed their deviant past and indiscretions. Instead, they are forced to wallow in it, and sadly, some end up replaying the role that is relentlessly thrust upon them.

    Making umbrella statements such as “these people” suggests a prejudice that worries me, considering your current job. This outright hysteria and inability to think objectively is what is forcing ex-offenders into conditions that will only encourage further social isolation and deviancy.

    Think before you post because you’re wrong on this issue. Everyone has to live somewhere. Just because it feels better when the ex-offenders aren’t in your back yard doesn’t mean you’re doing the world any favors.

    1. I am in agreement with susan. I was at a party when i was 19 and this 15 yr old girl was there. Now I did not know she was 15 until the cops came knocking. But anyways i got arrested did my time and now 7 years later i am still paying for it not only by the regestration proccess i have to go through but no one wants to hire me. I am not a molester or anything else, as a matter fact if someone was to touch a freinds kids in the wrong way i would prolly go to jail for killin them. I have never looked at a kid in that way and never will. I just wander when the government is gonna say screw it lets just lock em all up for good? thats the way it is heading.

    2. This is a very good point! Where do we want sex offenders to live? The way things are going we ” people ” want them to live under bridges right, WRONG, they are human beings, not everyone is a rapist or child molester but we the people think so. How many of us live next to a murderer, a thief you don’t know why because you can kill a person today and be let out of prison in 7 years and not have to register, how do you like that great, but a sex offender forget about it has a life of hell if they live long enough. People need to step back and think before the make new laws for sex offenders every law that has been written has been passed by emotions. Not the right move they don’t look at the future of the sex offender, like where will they live, work, attented church, visit what parks, etc. It is bad, this is like a witch hunt for people, we “sex offenders” live in fear 24 hrs a day from our neighbors to just going to a movie, let’s say you as”sex offender” goes to a movie
      with his family his wife and grand children and you need to go the rest room, how do you think you will feel, being a sex offender, I’ll tell you “SCARED” out of your mind you say to youself ” what if a boy comes in what if he has look at the registry and remember’s me and tells a police officer that you are in the bath room and you are there with you wife and grand children what do you think will happen, you don’t,you could be arrrested in front of your family, Oh I forgot to tell you ” sex offenders ” have families too! I’m sorry for the way in which I have spoken but I happen to be one.. ” sex offender” It’s living the life of hell believe me..Our laws need to be change to give a human being a second chance every one else does, so why can’t we..

  19. helloooooo wat is up homiesssssss

  20. There are of course flipsides to every coin… should someone convicted of relieving themselves in public be confined to having a reputation of a sex offender for the rest of their lives? No, of course not, and the law, and sentence, should reflect the nature of the crime.

    On the other hand when you have atrocities such as the slaughter of Jessica Lunsford, in Florida, by a piece of refuse like John Couey, a convicted sex offender at the time of the murder, the outrage in some communities is more than justifiable.

    Unfortunately not all judges have the victim and their families in mind when these villains are sentenced, only the “rehabilitation” potential of offenders that commit disgusting crimes… and until judges begin to wake up, do their jobs and start sentencing offenders appropriately I will take EVERY precaution to protect my family and loved ones.

  21. Why don’t you look up their actual records, rather than relying on the stunningly deceptive minimizations that pass for reporting on this romanticized myth? Of course, that would involve at least five minutes of reading. And ask yourself this: why would a sex offender convicted of crimes against juveniles (the only sex offenders actually affected by the ordinance, which you might consider reading) change his name? Hmmm.

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