Chris, at Public Criminology, points to an excellent example of how institutional rules can have unintended and counterproductive consequences. In this case, the rule applies to people convicted of committing sex offenses against children. Such offenders, once released from prison, are disallowed from living with 2,500 feet of schools, parks, churches, or any place where children might congregate.

So far so good.

But it turns out that, in Miami, that translates into everywhere. That is, everywhere is within 2,500 feet of one of these places. The yellow dots in this still the places near which sex offenders are not allowed to live:


Parole officers are at a loss and have instructed released offenders to live under a causeway in the middle of Biscayne Bay (see the red arrow). They even check on them every morning to make sure they are there.

These sex offenders, then, are forced into homelessness by rules designed to protect children.

The video below reports on the situation. In addition to the human rights concerns, there is a concern that the living conditions may actually increase the chances of recidivism.  Living under a bridge: (1) is arguably even less enjoyable than prison, (2) smothers hope of ever reintegrating into society, and (3) is not really conducive to self-improvement.

See also our other posts on rules that apply to released sex offenders here and here.

UPDATE: Comments thread closed.


Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.