Swept Under the Bridge

Sex offenders are ordered to sleep near a center for abused kids

Designated a sexual predator, he spent only a year in prison. On May 11, 2005, Sanchez was released and reported to a probation office, where his officer — then Esperanza Alfonso — had him arrested on the spot, ostensibly for failing to have cab fare to get to a temporary residence she had arranged in Hialeah. He was jailed for fifteen more months.

While he was locked up this second time, his new probation officer, Casal, looked into at least two assisted living facilities, but according to his notes, all proved to be within illegal range of a school, park, or day care. Casal called homeless shelters and found they either wouldn't take sex offenders or couldn't because of their location.

Ronald Book, chairman of the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust, states in no uncertain terms that he wants nothing to do with the problem of homeless sex offenders. "I don't take them — I won't take them into our programs," he says bluntly. "I don't have enough resources to build a program to house sexual offenders, and at the end of the day, I cannot."

The idea to stash offenders under the bridge seems to have originated within a county probation office; very possibly it was Casal himself who started the practice. On June 12, 2006, Casal's notes indicate that he notified the court that "if the subject is released without a residence, I will have to place him under the bridge...." Sanchez would be sharing the location, the probation officer added, "with another sex offender that is residing there." The other offender is not identified, and it's unclear whether there were others before him.

On August 17, 2006, Casal ordered Sanchez under the bridge. But he wasn't acting alone. According to his notes, he informed a probation officer named Ilzee Rabel, who works in Circuit Court Judge Diane Ward's division, of his decision. Whether Ward herself was ever told is unclear. She didn't return several phone calls or an e-mail seeking comment. But one thing is clear: By this past February 9 Casal had visited the site near the child abuse center at least 118 times to enforce Sanchez's curfew.

"They treat us like animals," Sanchez says, "putting us down here. It's not right, it's not just."

Marco Carrasquillo, also Puerto Rican, was next to arrive. The short and wiry 45-year-old pled guilty to sodomizing an eleven-year-old boy, a relative, while holding a knife to his throat in 1997. He faced a possible life sentence, but plea-bargained for twelve years in prison, ten of probation, and sex predator status.

Carrasquillo was released this past January 3 and sent to Camillus House, where he spent a night before reporting back to the probation office the next morning. That day a probation supervisor, Dawn Dinatale, contacted a circuit office of the probation department "whom advised that [Carrasquillo] is to sleep under bridge located at corner of NW Thirteenth Street and Twelfth Avenue," according to case notes. Later, probation officer Kimlynn Cohen sent him there. "Defendant cannot sleep at Camillus House, must sleep under bridge," Cohen wrote.

He has been there every night since. Carrasquillo claims that Circuit Court Judge Cristina Pereyra-Shuminer, who didn't return phone messages, knew he was being sent to the muddy location. "I told the judge to let me back into prison," Carrasquillo says. "If I'd have known this was going to happen, I'd have finished my eight years there."

Patrick Wiese, also 45 years old, arrived under the bridge two days after Carrasquillo. Emaciated and toothless, he sleeps in a long cardboard box that looks like a coffin. He was arrested in late 2005 for molesting his nine-year-old stepdaughter and sentenced to a year, followed by ten years of probation.

When it came time for his release this past January 12, Weise was taken to a probation office at NW 167th Street and 36th Avenue. There, he says, probation officer Robert Laier told him he was telephoning Circuit Court Judge Reemberto Diaz to learn where Wiese would be sent. The homeless man says that Laier made the call, hung up, and said that he would be living under the bridge. "A person goes to prison, does his time. They're supposed to help him," Wiese says bitterly. "They do help others, but what do they do to us? Stick us under a damn bridge."

Diaz, who was appointed to the Eleventh Judicial Circuit by Gov. Jeb Bush last June, is the only judge who agreed to discuss the case. He says he cannot recall being informed of any offender sent to live in the jury parking lot and adamantly denies ever giving instructions to anyone to do so. He blames probation officers for Wiese's placement. "I can't say where to put them," he says. "We let probation deal with it."

It's hard to imagine a situation that is less safe for anyone. The rate of recidivism among sex offenders is high, and except for Casal's predawn checks, the men are left almost entirely to their own devices. Wiese and Carrasquillo have gone together several times to a day labor center on Flagler Street and registered for work. Wiese says he almost got a job "digging holes," but it fell through. Carrasquillo says he has looked for dishwashing work since he left prison, but hasn't found any.

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