SPRINGDALE, Ark. (KFTA) — There are almost 17,000 registered sex offenders in Arkansas. A problem that comes up when some are released from jail or prison is where they will live.
Over the past several years, new laws have been put in place to restrict where sex offenders can call home.
“Residency restrictions are propelling offenders out into rural communities where there is lack of community supervision, lack of engagement, less employment opportunities,” said Jennifer Dean Jordan, area manager of Arkansas Community Correction.
Dean Jordan said restrictions depend on the level of the offender.
“Level 3 and 4 offenders cannot reside by parks, daycares, community centers, youth centers,” Dean Jordan said. “Level 4 offenders [can’t live by], churches and other places of worship.”
“We serve anyone in need, including sex offenders,” said Jessica Andrews, CEO of 7Hills homeless center where some offenders may turn to for help.
“It’s more difficult to house anyone with a criminal record, including having a sex offense on your record,” Andrews said. “But we will still help that individual through our program and help them find housing.”
Andrews said the center is not an overnight shelter. Offenders are able to come and get food and clothing before being asked to leave the property.
“We believe it’s our mission to help them get back on their feet and that everyone deserves a second chance,” Andrews said.
Dean Jordan said in order to help the homelessness issue, current laws need to be reviewed.
“The first step is to conduct research to determine if residence restrictions are actually doing what the legislative goal was,” Dean Jordan said. “And that is to protect children.”