Ministering to sex offenders
Feb 11, 2010
interview by Saul Gonzales for PBS' Religion and Ethics:
GONZALEZ: First started by Canadian churches in the mid 1990s, COSA’s work with sex offenders centers on small discussion circles that meet weekly. In the circles, four to six volunteers from the community are matched with one sex offender, called a core member. In this circle the offender is named John.
JOHN: And I screwed up and I made some bad choices because I become careless and I become complacent, and that is something that anybody that’s in my situation cannot do.
GONZALEZ: The circles are intended to get recently paroled sex offenders to take responsibility for the crimes they’ve committed and provide them material and moral support as they attempt to reenter the community.
JOHN: I can talk about anything, anything.
JOHN: Anything. I told them things about me that I wouldn’t tell my closest friend.
....GONZALEZ: There are more than 700,000 registered sex offenders in the United States, with more than 100,000 of them living in California. In California, like other states, paroled offenders are required to wear GPS ankle bracelets. Offenders must also follow strict residency restrictions, preventing them from living within 2,000 feet of schools and parks. Unable to find apartments that don’t violate the residency restrictions, many men have wound up on the streets, creating entire tent cities of sex offenders. Parole agent Andy Mounts and his partner showed us one encampment. They introduced us to Michael, a paroled rapist.
(speaking to Michael and Andy Mounts): In this homeless encampment, what percentage of the people living here are sex offenders?
MOUNTS: Michael, what do you think?
MICHAEL: I would say almost all of them.
GONZALEZ: All of them. Almost all of them.
MOUNTS: One or two are not. If you see 50 tents, Michael—47 or 48 sex offenders?