Organization To Challenge Oklahoma Law Regulating Sex Offender Housing

Monday, September 10th 2012, 4:30 pm
By: News 9

Hand Up Ministries plans to challenge a state law that forced half of its clients off their property.

Organizers said Senate Bill 852 was actually detrimental to the public's safety. The bill banned sex offenders from living with other sex offenders. Hand Up Ministries was one organization affected because they operate a controlled environment where two or three registered sex offenders could room together after their prison release.

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Until now, Hand Up Ministries has provided shelter and counseling, but recently cut back on services because of state law banning sex offenders from living under the same roof.

"These people are here where they're accounted for, where they're registered," said attorney David Slane. "The law enforcement knows where they are. Now they're out in the community and they're unaccounted for. They're living in cars. They're living in parks. They're living in tents."

Director David Nichols said that dozens of sex offenders once accounted for at Hand Up Ministries were forced to live on the streets, and no one knows where they are.

"We don't know where everybody's at. I do know that the unregistered list has gone up to 1,000 and we looked, and 77 of those used to be here," Nichols said.

Nichols said those offenders would still be accounted for if they could have stayed at Hand Up Ministries. He also said the organization has proven successful.

Slane took up the cause after learning what Hand Up Ministries provided. He said as a father, he'd rather see sex offenders living inside a gated area with constant monitoring. He said he planned to challenge the law and if successful, Hand Up Ministries would be able to bring back the offenders forced onto the streets.

"We believe that if they want to live there, they have a constitutional right to do that and so we're going to challenge it," he said.

Punishment for sex offenders living under the same roof according to SB 852 is up to one year in jail for $1,000 in fines.