On a beautiful, breezy night last week, Pastor Vincent Spann of Liberty City climbed from a Ford SUV and, flanked by about a dozen family members and disciples, toured the now-infamous sex offenders' encampment under the Julia Tuttle Causeway, which New Times introduced the world to in 2007. With his trademark silver stars adorning his hat and collar, a right-hand man taping his every word, and a New Times cameraman filming, Spann looked like a cross between a visiting diplomat and some sort of guerrilla general holding a press conference at Mad Max wasteland. "This is almost like a modern-day leprosy camp," Spann ruminated. "In the Old Testament times, the people who had leprosy were exiled and put onto an island and had bells tied around their necks."
Last week, Spann sent a proposal to Miami-Dade Commissioner Dorrin Rolle, whose district includes Liberty City, outlining his plan to re-house the 63 sex offenders languishing in the tent city. Spann wants to put them in an uninhabited industrial-zoned building at 3681 NW 52nd St., which he says is far enough from schools and other children's facilities to meet state regulations.
It might sound crazy, but Spann's got a knack for pulling off the improbable. In January, New Times profiled the drill-sergeant-turned-preacher, who accepts any ex-con or drug addict at his rehab compound in Liberty City and runs them through a faith-based militaristic regimen, which he claims changes lives.
Julia Tuttle Bridge
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If the state allows Spann to take in the Julia Tuttle colony, he says he'll treat the men the same as he does the substance abusers at his existing camp, meaning he'll put them through daily room inspections and force them to march in formation at 6 in the morning. And he'll provide all of this for the low, low price of $90,000 per month — or $1.08 million a year.
Asked if he thinks his 2007 felony conviction — for third-degree grand theft, related to running a construction company without a license — might hinder a contract with the county and state, Spann's eyes go buggy. "That doesn't matter!" he booms. "Who else is going to do something? Who else isn't too scared?"
A deal with the government wouldn't be without precedent. In 1998, Commissioner Arthur Teele arranged for Spann's boot camp to receive more than $200,000 in community development cash. Commissioner Rolle did not respond to messages left at his office requesting comment for this story.
View video of Spann's visit to the Julia Tuttle encampment.