PRESENTATION BY RON BOOK REGARDING UPDATE ON THE JULIA TUTTLE SEX OFFENDER ISSUE
Jose "Pepe" Diaz, Prime Sponsor
Board of County Commissioners
Mr. Ron Book, Chairman, Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust, provided an update on the issue of homeless sexual predators/offenders living under the Julia Tuttle Causeway. He noted with the cooperation of Commissioner Diaz, tremendous efforts were underway to resolve this issue. He noted he was not unmindful or insensitive to the recent direction given by the Commission to not make any precipitous moves of large groups of offenders and predators from under the Causeway.
Mr. Book noted approximately 71–124 people were living under the Causeway just one-month ago, and estimated that approximately 44–49 people were currently living under the Causeway today. He indicated that the move to close the encampment was near and that sufficient notice had been provided to the residents. He said that a significant number of people had been placed in other housing facilities by the Trust or relocated on their own. Mr. Book indicated that Commissioner Diaz had been continuously updated on the progress of relocation efforts. He noted that meetings with City of Miami Commissioner Sarnoff, the City’s Manager, Intergovernmental and Legal staffs were ongoing in order to maintain open communications regarding the pending litigation and resettlement efforts.
Mr. Book said that no further action had occurred relating to the North Dade Corrections Center being secured for housing the relocated predators / offenders. He noted the Center was a viable option and was among several community locations being considered. Mr. Book said that efforts were underway to ensure that a large group of predators/offenders would not be relocated to any single location. He noted that over 100 multi-family foreclosures and government surplus properties had been evaluated. Additionally, potential locations were identified through recent advertisements in all local newspapers and evaluated by police, parole and probation officials, said Mr. Book. He noted that ample properties were available in the community for everyone currently living under the Causeway.
Mr. Book noted he was frustrated that predators were reluctant to move to or remain in the selected locations. He said that proposed changes to the ordinance would be introduced by Commissioner Diaz that would assist efforts to provide more countywide locations and avoid placing the offenders exclusively at the North Dade Correction Center.
Mr. Book noted conversations had transpired with the Department of Corrections and the Department of Transportation to develop a plan to permanently close the encampment. This would include installing guardrails and fencing around the area to assure that a new encampment could not begin after the closure, said Mr. Book. He noted that it was made clear to the Department of Corrections that allowing individuals to live under the Causeway was not acceptable.
Mr. Book said that relocation efforts were enhanced by the combined efforts of the Homeless Trust, the Miami-Dade County Police Department, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the County Attorney, and the County Manager.
Commissioner Diaz acknowledged Mr. Book for his dedication provided to the community and the Homeless Trust. He noted that the Commission was anxious to implement an appropriate solution as soon as possible.
Commissioner Jordan expressed appreciation to Mr. Book for his hard work and commitment. She noted her support for an item on today’s agenda which urged the Department of Corrections to sign the discharge agreement. Commissioner Jordan said this agreement provided for inmates to begin working with the Homeless Trust to determine the need for housing assistance 150 days prior to their release. She emphasized the need for relocation efforts to be community-wide and not concentrated in any single location.
Mr. Book responded to Commissioner Jordan’s request for information pertaining to the execution of the Discharge Agreement by the Department of Corrections Secretary. He noted the Legislative Delegation needed to receive information on the outcome of today’s resolution in order to assist in efforts to help persuade the Secretary of the Department of Corrections to adopt the Discharge Agreement. Mr. Book said that the Agreement was the result of nine months of negotiations with the Department and he believed they were not prepared to adopt a protocol for a discharge plan. He noted that he would communicate today’s action of the Commission with the Department of Corrections Secretary and Chief of Staff.
Mr. Book noted the very difficult task of balancing the community’s interest in creating a safe community for children versus relocating predators/offenders living in squalor-like conditions to other areas without having a colony of predators living in one place. He noted that those living under the Causeway needed to be seen as victims and that adequate housing was available in the community to ensure everyone had a place to live. Mr. Book said that everyone should be appreciative of the efforts undertaken on their behalf, which would continue until the situation was resolved.
Commissioner Jordan noted it was essential that the State seriously considered the discharge policy. She said that a planned release process was necessary; otherwise, the sexual predator/offender population would not decline as long as others were released without appropriate housing.
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