Sex offender bill pre-filed

Published 5:48 pm Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A bill defining areas where multiple sex offenders live and regulating how many live in the same residence could become law if passed by the Alabama Legislature.

State Rep. Kurt Wallace, R-Maplesville, is co-sponsoring House Bill 21, which would designate places where sex offenders live as “residential sex offender clusters” and prohibit more than one unrelated adult sex offender from living in an unauthorized residential sex offender cluster.

Wallace has pre-filed the bill for the legislative session beginning in January.

Wallace said he tried to get the first version of the bill passed about two years ago, but the bill didn’t make it past the committee meeting stage.

“The original bill was an anti-clustering bill that made everybody separate,” Wallace said.

The bill—which would have statewide application—met opposition from larger counties, including Jefferson and Montgomery, based on the notion that law enforcement agencies would have more difficulties in keeping track of sex offenders if none were in the same residence, Wallace said.

“Bigger counties didn’t want that,” Wallace said. “The sheriff’s job is to keep up with these people. It’s easier to keep them together in one place. Our sheriff, Kevin Davis, doesn’t have that same issue.”

“The new version says that each sheriff has the opportunity to set up zones—certain areas where they can live,” Wallace said. “He gets to decide how many can live in a cluster.”

Investigator Erric Price with the Chilton County Sheriff’s Department said 160 registered sex offenders live in Chilton County, as of Wednesday.

Of 160, 11 people live at the same address, 40 County Road 374 off Enterprise Road south of Clanton, in campers behind Triumph Church.

In 2011, as many as 23 people convicted of sex crimes were released to the same address, according to a story published in The Clanton Advertiser.

The owner of the property, the Rev. Ricky Martin, at County Road 374 declined to comment Wednesday.

Price said he estimated 10 of the 11 sex offenders living in Chilton County had no ties to the county before relocating behind Triumph Church.

“This area is being saturated with a large group [of sex offenders] at one time,” Price said. “By having this place here, it draws people that would have never come here.”

Price said Wallace’s bill could help decrease the number of convicted sex offenders—who committed their crimes elsewhere—moving to Chilton County after being released.

“It would help in that people that have no ties to Chilton County would not be coming into our county to start with,” Price said. “On the flip end, it would be easier for me to check on them and manage them as a sex offender manager when they’re all together. It’s got pros and cons.”

Price said two of the 11 sex offenders in Chilton have been arrested by the sheriff’s department on alcohol-related charges since relocating here.

“It’s a big task,” Price said of Triumph Church’s mission to help sex offenders. “I do believe the Rev. Martin has a good heart, I just don’t believe he fully understood the magnitude and job of what it would consist in trying to rehabilitate these gentlemen. I think it’s a task that’s too big for one person to take on.”

Existing law restricts sex offenders from living and being employed within 2,000 feet of property on which a school or childcare facility is located. It also restricts sex offenders from residing within 2,000 feet of their victims.

The bill Wallace wrote and co-sponsored with Rep. Paul Beckman, R-Prattville, would prohibit sex offenders from living in an unregulated sex offender cluster.

The bill defines a “residential sex offender cluster” as any lot at which two or more unrelated adult sex offenders maintain a residence or other living accommodation, or in the case of a hotel, motel, apartment complex or similar multi-unit dwelling structure, the term would mean a discrete unit in which two or more unrelated adult sex offenders live.

Under the bill, places housing five or more sex offenders would be considered “large residential sex offender clusters,” with the maximum occupancy being 30 sex offenders per residence.

The bill would also authorize the sheriff of each county to license a residential sex offender cluster in which two or more unrelated adult sex offenders live; require monitoring of sex offenders living in authorized residential clusters; and authorize the Department of Mental Health to disseminate rules regulating residential sex offender clusters.

Live-in monitors of such clusters would have to have no record of a felony conviction, and one monitor for every 10 offenders would be mandatory.

Wallace said his formation of the bill stemmed from phone calls he received from concerned residents, who said sex offenders living nearby had knocked on their doors, looking for work.

Wallace said he doesn’t want Chilton to become a hub for people convicted of sex crimes.

“If a Chilton Countian goes bad, we’ll have to deal with that because that’s one of our own,” Wallace said. “When you put that many like-minded individuals together, are they talking about what they did? When you run with a bad crowd, separate yourself from that crowd. As long as these people are grouped together and talking about the same desires they have, they’re not getting a cure for themselves.”