American Sex Offenders Have Their Own City

The City of Refuge lies amid cane fields in Pahokee, Fla.
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted May 9, 2015 4:40 PM CDT
American Sex Offenders Have Their Own City

(Newser) – Convicted sex offenders are legally required to live far from children, so they often reside in cars, under overpasses, in the woods—or in the City of Refuge. More like a village, Refuge houses 120 offenders in 61 concrete bungalows amid the cane fields of Pahokee, Fla. "Here is exile that is also asylum from the larger, unforgiving world," writes Jay Kirk in GQ. "Here is, weirdly enough, real community." Told that many residents did "the statutory boyfriend-girlfriend thing" rather than child molestation, Kirk finds them warm and welcoming. He also sees the founding nonprofit, Matthew 25 Ministries, carefully vet potential new members. And the residents (mostly men wearing ankle monitors) help each other with life's problems. "If it weren't for City of Refuge, they'd be out there on their own," Kirk writes.

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Sex-offender support groups like one reported in the Edmonton Journal seem to pale by comparison. Yet there's a dark side: When Ministries moved into this village, once used by migrant cane workers, remaining ex-workers saw their children forced out. "They got to go," says one. "Because of the sex offenders." And when Kirk looks up Refuge's offenders on the National Sex Offender Registry, he sees crimes including minors and forced acts: "My skin grows colder with each click," he writes. This makes their identity as "undeniably over-punished" victims (even comparing themselves to Jews in Nazi Germany) harder for Kirk to accept. Short of conclusions, he visits Refuge's small chapel, where Kirk says the choir sings "as if to expunge their names" from the sex registry. "You are wor-thy!" they sing. "You are wor-thy!" Click for the full article, or read about a couple on trial for having sex on a beach. (Read more sex crime stories.)

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