In the 1990s, Florida began the practice of sex offender registries. The purpose of the sex offender registry was and is to protect the community from people who society deems are a recurring threat. Now at least 20 states have sex offender registry programs, where those convicted of sex crimes or sex offenses must register for a period of time and must maintain up-to-date registrations, usually with the county where they reside.

In addition, those on sex offender registries usually must live in a household where there are no minor children, and no closer than a certain distance from parks, schools, and other places where children might congregate.

North Carolina has its own sex offender registry where everyone convicted of a sexual battery (a misdemeanor) up to felony forcible rape may be required by statute register for at least 10 years as a sex offender. After ten (10) years, a court may review a person’s status as a sex offender.

In certain communities, this has created a problem for registered sex offenders who find it very difficult to find suitable housing that complies with sex offender laws, and who have trouble finding apartment buildings or other landlords who will rent to them.

The result is that sex offenders tend to live together in the few apartment complexes that will have them. I remember when I lived in Phoenix, there were a few places that were crammed with sex offenders because only a few places were suitable – far enough away from schools and parks – and would allow sex offenders to rent there.

This has the unintended consequence of reinforcing bad behaviors. Obviously when sex offenders live together, there’s little chance that those who are capable for reforming will do so.

In some places, sex offenders have been relegated to living – literally – under bridges. That’s the case in Miami.

But NPR has a good story on one minister who has created a safe place where sex offenders can live and can receive some kind of treatment.