Sex Offenders banished to the Julia Tuttle Causeway now have some serious lawyers on their side. The American Civil Liberties Union sued Miami-Dade County today, claiming a 2005 ordinance "unreasonably burdens" the men. The reason: It takes away their right to housing.
The complaint also points out Miami-Dade has "exacerbated the very danger the county intended to avert." Offenders are more likely to repeat sex crimes without a stable place to live, say ACLU lawyers.
Miami-Dade County first passed the ordinance to keep registered sex offenders 2,500 feet from schools, parks, and day care centers. But this caused one giant, nagging problem. One of the only places that met the requirement: under the bridge. The colony has more than tripled in size to 70 since New Times first broke the story in 2007. Back then, the men lived within 500 feet of an advocacy center for abused kids.
Says Florida ACLU Executive Director Howard Simon: "The ACLU is as concerned about protecting our communities - especially our children."
Conditions are getting worse everyday. The bridge is now wall-to- wall with tents, RVs, and shanty homes. The place drips with squalor. On a recent visit, the guys told New Times that they go to the bathroom in buckets, then dump the waste into the bay. A spray- painted wall reads: "We are not animals."
Miami-Dade county has 20 days to respond. Says ALCU legal director Maria Kayanan: "We've set the wheels in motion."