This season’s “you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up” award goes to the NY State Department of Hoosegows and Parole for refusing to let parolees return to their families and then keeping them in prison past their release date because they lack an approved residence.
“They’re not kept in prison!” splutters the Department, “they’re placed in a Residential Treatment Facility!” Never mind that they’re still in the same cell as when they were serving their prison sentences, with the same rules and the same job at $1.50 a week. It’s not prison so long as we call it something else.
Here’s the distinction:
Why are these guests of the state being requested to overstay their time? Did they manifest such monstrous tendencies that it would be dangerous to release them? Not at all. It’s because their past crime was one of a long list of felonies and misdemeanors designated as “sex offenses” under SORA. The crime may not have involved children or even sex, but the designation makes them “sex offenders” who aren’t allowed to live within a thousand feet of a school or anywhere else where kiddies might set foot. Since every neighborhood in NYC is notoriously child-prone, nearly all housing is off-limits to “sex offenders.”
One court at least has seen through this humbug. Judge Richard Koweek of Hudson, NY, after hearing from a parolee that he was being treated like any other prison inmate, found that Hudson Hoosegow “is not really a residential treatment facility” and ordered that he either be placed in a real one or released. Matter of Kahn.
But we can imagine how little it will take for prisons to fob themselves off as “residential treatment facilities.” Painting the bars environment- green will probably suffice.
A few years ago the Miami Department of Corrections solved the problem of housing paroled sex offenders by putting them under a highway bridge. New York would never tolerate such a practice, since the underside of bridges is prime real estate, plus parole officers don’t like having to wade through a lot of soggy cardboard boxes to find their clients. Keeping parolees in prison past their release date is far less conspicuous. Injustice, to be done, must not be seen to be done.