Sex Offenders Live in Village Under Miami Bridge

"When I got to the probation officer, they put this box on my ankle," said Barkley pointing to the black bracelet affixed to his ankle and the monitoring box he must wear whenever he leaves the bridge. "This box is like a tracking device. So they tell me that I have to be here from 6 o'clock p.m. to 7 o'clock in the morning."

Like many of the offenders, Barkley said he sees little difference between his current situation and his previous incarceration.

"I went to prison for all those years, and I'm still here. All I want is my life back. I deserve a second chance at life," he said. "People don't have a heart. They don't have a conscience."

Ron Book is a man who believes he has a heart and a conscience. The multimillionaire Florida lobbyist is the architect of Miami-Dade's harsh sexual predator laws. For Book, this has been a personal crusade.

Eight years ago, he learned that the nanny he and his wife had hired to care for their children was physically and sexually abusing their daughter. The nanny went to jail, and Book went to work pushing Florida's politicians to make pariahs of all sexual offenders.

It worked.

And while he acknowledges the problems the laws have created, he stands by them.

"I personally believe that residency restrictions have value and importance," he said. "Nobody said that someone exiting the prison system after committing a sexually deviant act on a child has a right to dictate where they live."

'I Sleep Very Comfortably at Night Knowing That We Have Made Our Community Safer,' Says Man Behind the Law

For Book, it is a personal crusade.

"I have a different perspective than many people," he said, tearing up as he recounted his daughter's experience at the hands of her abuser. "I sleep very comfortably at night knowing that we have made our community safer."

Although there is no conclusive evidence that the community is safer because of the harsh laws.

Miami Dade County Commissioner Pepe Diaz sleeps well at night, too, knowing that he helped his county pass some of the toughest sexual offender laws in the country.

"At no time am I going to apologize for the law that I helped to create. That law has saved, to me, in my opinion, the innocence of a lot of children," he said.

Still, Diaz will tell you he's not proud of the camp on the causeway.

"That is not a way to live for anybody. And also, in the midst of one of our bridges that goes through our main tourist areas in Miami Beach," he said.

But he has no interest in changing the law, insisting that "there are sufficient places where these men can live legally in the county."

Diaz's assertion contradicts a study of available affordable housing for sex offenders in Miami Dade County, released this week by the American Civil Liberties Union. According to the study, in the entire county, just 15 units were available to sex offenders at a rent of less than $1,000 a month. Meanwhile, not a single unit under $750 qualified.

In an ironic twist, Ron Book -- the same man who pushed for the laws that forced predators under the bridge -- is also chairman of the Miami Dade Homeless Trust, and is in charge of finding them proper homes.

During "Nightline's" visit, Book talked to Barkley about his quest to find a more suitable home, but the housing Book was hoping for won't suit Barkley, who is stymied by that ankle bracelet, which requires him to stay 1,000 feet away from any school bus stop.

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...