Sex Offender Begs For More Jail Time

Florida sex offender laws don't work and create homeless crisis, experts say.

July 15, 2009— -- Florida sex offender Raphael Marquez was just released from an eight-year prison term, but now he's begging the judge to send him back.

Marquez is one of many sex offenders whose new beginnings have been tripped up by a patchwork of laws designed to protect the public from sexual predators.

These laws require offenders to register with the communities in which they live and stay away from schools and playgrounds, leaving some who have served their time and are trying to comply with the law homeless.

Marquez was released June 20, but the only legal and affordable option he could find was a rat-infested overpass in Broward County next to a park filled with 100 other sex offenders.

"This is a very nasty crime, but I deserve a second chance," said the 38-year-old former cabinet maker who was charged with sexual battery of a 12-year-old relative.

"I am positive I won't do this again, but I need all the support and help I can get," Marquez told "I am willing to risk my life on it."

Under House Arrest and Homeless

Marquez is just one of hundreds of sex offenders who are unable to find work or housing in Broward County. One local blogger describes his plight as being "under house arrest without a home."

And the problem isn't just there. In Miami, a legal battle has erupted over a growing colony of sex offenders who have been forced under the Julia Tuttle Causeway. The vagrants live in shacks, creating a national dialogue over the unintended consequences of residency laws.

Marquez was required to register in his Oakland Park neighborhood and carry a large GPS box to track his every move.

He must observe an indoor curfew from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. and not live within 2,500 feet of a school, day care facility, playground or other place where children regularly congregate.

That, in addition to the high cost of rent, has made finding a place to live impossible, according to his public defender lawyer, Cheryl Koewing.

"No one wants to employ him," Koewing told "How can law enforcement keep track of these individuals and not have them turning to other means to get food to live? They've served their time."

Marquez can't drive alone without his parole officer's approval, rent a post office box or use the Internet. He must submit to warrantless searches of his home and vehicle, as well as to sex counseling and regular polygraphs at his own expense.

Better Jail Than Violate Parole

"I'd rather be here than violate my probation and run," said Marquez, stressed and losing weight in the Broward County Jail. "I am back to square one."

Twenty-four of Broward's 31 cities have adopted laws banning offenders from moving near children. The state requires only 1,000 feet separation, but most of these cities have 2,500-feet buffer zones, essentially blanketing entire cities.

Marquez could have moved to Broadview Park, a small swath of unincorporated neighborhood that is packed with about 100 sex offenders. But in April, officials passed an ordinance making that illegal.

His mother wired him $500, which he spent on cheap motels, but that money ran out. His parole officer found him a rehabilitation home for sex offenders, but he couldn't afford the $750 deposit and had no transportation to get there.

Marquez, who has no family in Florida, wants to move to Buffalo with his mother, hoping that he can trade more time in prison to get lifetime regular probation, allowing him to travel across state lines.

"But he's getting information from the other inmates who want to transfer to New York that they were flat-out rejected," said Koewing. "Now he's scared to death because he cannot live in Florida."

He is not alone. Scott Burgess said his life has been ruined by the laws. He committed a so-called "Romeo and Juliet" felony in 1991 when he was just 17, having sex with a 13-year-old whom Burgess claims he thought was older.

"I did over 10 years in prison, I was no angel," said the 36-year-old. "But to this day, I can never get back on my feet again."

Burgess lined up a painting job and was told when he showed for work, "Sorry we can't keep you."

He was let go from another job at a rental store when they found out he was an offender, and, like Marquez, ended up homeless.

After being thrown out of two homes -- one even owned by a family member -- he ended up in a Fort Lauderdale park that was dominated by gangs.

"I tried to live honestly," Burgess told Now, he's headed to a Florida state prison for second-degree murder, a crime he claims he didn't commit.

Sex Offenders Forced to Go Bad

"It's more than the world can handle," he said. "You can't get a job. You have no money and you still have to eat and clothe yourself. It forces you literally to go bad."

According to William Samek, director of Florida's sexual abuse treatment program, these laws "don't protect anybody and mislead and coddle us into believing we are doing something effective."

A 1998 study of studies published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, looked at a wide range of 23,000 offenders and found a 13.4 percent recidivism rate.

About 85 percent of those crimes are committed within families, according to Samek.

"The public is stirred by the media to see all sex offenders in general as Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer," he told "For the majority, it was inappropriate touching within the family. Most are not particularly scary or dangerous."

"There is zero scientific evidence that [these laws] make sense or that they actually protect children," he said.

"There is no connection between where the offender lives and where he commits his crime, other than incest," according to Samek, who said that most sex crimes are not "committed on impulse."

Most sex offenders suffer from underlying disease or mental illness that is "very treatable" if the state is willing to invest in effective treatment and lie-detector programs, rather than "draconian punishment."

"For men who are required to be homeless and to live under bridges, it's less stressful to live in prison than live on the street with these sanctions," he said.

But Oakland Park Commissioner Suzanne Boisvenue, who works on a task force to study the homeless situation in Broward County, disagrees.

"I think it's a matter of them not wanting to work or pay for a place to live," said Boisvenue in an interview with Florida's Sun-Sentinel. "There are plenty of lawns to mow."

She told that there is "more than enough housing" for these offenders.

Debt to Society

In both Miami and in Broward County, the Department of Corrections has been "dropping off" sex offenders in unincorporated areas where the homeless have converged, making the problem worse, she said.

"Not enough has been said about protecting these children and how they are damaged for life," said Boisvenue, who worked as a hospital nurse for 30 years. "You should see the condition they come after they have been mutilated."

"You have to wonder why all the attention being given to the sex offenders," she said. "I don't think it's fair. We need to be talking about the rights of the children."

As for Marquez, who was a model prisoner and worked in the canteen, he believes he has paid his debt to society.

"I regret what I did every day, and I will never do it again," he said. "I tried to kill myself twice in prison. I have to live with this for the rest of my life."

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