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Where do paroled sex offenders live? Near schools? Next door to people with children? Where they live in one community is causing a lot of controversy..
Richmond, IN — How would you feel if three sex offenders who had just been released from prison moved in next door? Then, you found out your tax money was paying their rent? That could be happening to some people in our viewing area.
News Center 7 dug into the program that could move into your neighborhood.
Darlene Callahan, from Richmond, IN, says she carefully tracks registered sex offenders in her community using the online registry through the Wayne County Sheriff's Office. "We've got to protect our children," Callahan said. "I have looked at that because of where my granddaughter goes to school and where they live and her mother also does the same thing." The list she sees online could soon grow.
News Center 7 checked the sex offender registry against the address of the Beachwood Mobile Home Park on N.W. 5th Street in Richmond. We found 12 registered sex offenders live within a mile of the park's address. We've also learned there could be at least another two more moving into this neighborhood on the state of Indiana's dime through a program the state dhepartment of corrections calls 'DOC assist'.
The program is used to help sex offender parolees get back on their feet in the community where they lived before their conviction. It's used, "if they don't have much money, they don't have a job, they don't have any family network support," according to Doug Garrison, Communications Director for the Indiana Dept. of Corrections.
Garrison says 10 sex offenders are currently a part of the program statewide. It pays rent for the parolee in a state-owned mobile home for up to two weeks while they look for permanent housing and employment. "We can't send sex offenders out into the community if they have no resources. We can't just open the door to the prison and let them go," Garrison said.
Only three parolees would be placed in a trailer at one time; and they can't be close to schools and playgrounds. "The supervision is as tight as it can be," said Garrison. "Anyone that's on DOC Assist that's on parole and is a sex offender also has to wear GPS bracelets--which means we can track their comings and goings and their whereabouts in real-time 24 hours a day."
One of the mobile homes was proposed for Beachwood, but it's on hold now after Wayne County Sheriff Jeff Cappa raised concerns. The state is now holding meetings to discuss the program with law enforcement. "I wasn't trying to cause the DOC any trouble," Cappa said. "I was trying to say slow down just a little bit, I feel like this was dropped on me out of nowhere and that I'd like to talk about it."
People who live in Beachwood are not happy about it, either. "I mean it's scary," said Richmond resident Crystal Hall.
"I have grand babies. I have kids in this park and they need to go find another place to live," said Dorothy Saffer, of Richmond.
Neighbors here say they'd rather see a program like Ohio's where sex offender parolees can go to state halfway houses. Make it into a complex for them so they can, you know, be amongst their own and get on their feet that way," Hall said.
Garrison says nothing will be coming down the pike in Richmond anytime soon for this program. "Nothing will happen in Wayne County certainly until a long time after that meeting occurs and until we can reach some sort of consensus whether or not there will be any DOC facility there at all."