MIAMI, May 6, 2007 — -- Miami's South Beach is known around the world for its glamorous lifestyle and decadent parties. One of the bridges you can take to get there is the Julia Tuttle Causeway, but most drivers on the bridge don't know what's lurking beneath them -- eight convicted sex offenders who have taken up residence with the official blessing of the authorities.
The men committed such crimes as sexual battery and molestation. Many of the offenses were against children.
Kevin Morales, one of the homeless predators under the bridge, went to prison for 10 months for assaulting three girls. He said he served his time, and this is just another sentence.
"I would ask anyone to come here and sleep from 10 to 6 and live the mental torture that I live every day," Morales said. "You hear the rats coming your way, nibbling at your bags to any little food you may bring."
Morales and the other men are required to be there every night from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. The state lists their official address as the Julia Tuttle Causeway, and parole officers come by regularly to make sure the predators show up each night.
An ordinance intended to keep predators away from children has made it nearly impossible for the men to find housing.
Miami Dade County has one of the strictest sexual predator laws in the country. Once predators are released from prison, they are required to live more than 2,500 feet from anywhere children congregate. But they are barred from leaving the county while they are on parole.
In a county as dense and as expensive as Miami-Dade, there is no place the men can legally live that they can also afford.
Morales actually found one apartment he could afford, but the state did not allow him to stay there because the building had a pool where children sometimes congregated.
He then joined several homeless sex offenders living in a Miami parking lot -- until state officers realized it was across from a center for sexually abused children and moved them under the bridge.
"Look at this act that they've imposed what they are creating is a nightmare, is making people to become homeless, not the productive members you worked for us to be," Morales said.
Along with some of the offenders, he is required to wear a GPS tracking device that runs on electricity. However, there are no outlets under the bridge to charge it.
Corrections officials admit the ordinance could actually make the community less safe because it may they drive the offenders so far underground that parole officers can't supervise them.
"Certainly, it's not ideal, it's not a situation we like, and we're working very hard to remedy it and find places for them to live," said Bruce Grant, the assistant secretary for community corrections at the Florida Department of Corrections. "To push sex offenders under a bridge or into a homeless status is to set them up for failure and for reoffending."
Morales sees no solution either. That is why he is asking the county to send him back to jail.
"I plead with anyone before they act, think, 'Is it worth it?' -- because for me it hasn't been," he said. "This has been a living hell."