But critics say the law is illogical and counterproductive. "There's got to be a more humane way of handling this," says Miami-Dade Commissioner Xavier Suarez, who concedes there's no movement to change the rule. "That we restrict where they can live and not provide any facilities for them isn't humane or logical and is a totally incorrect way of handling this."
The backstory behind how the men have now ended up living on Hialeah train tracks only illustrates the absurdity of the restrictions.
By April 2010, the county had closed the Julia Tuttle encampment, while Book's organization, the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust, used $1 million in public money to find six months of housing for the offenders. Those funds were intended to bridge the men into normalized society: employment, sustainable housing, a new life. Soon, however, the money ran out, and many offenders, still unable to find housing or jobs, were back on the streets.
Others discovered a mobile home community near the Miami River called River Park that seemed to be legal housing. Dozens settled in. But then, last summer, Book's Homeless Trust dispatched a note to Miami-Dade Police, telling them there was a school nearby. "The trailer park houses sex offenders," Elizabeth Regalado, an assistant director at the trust, wrote in an email. "It is infested with crime and criminal activity due to prostitution and drugs."
At first, according to emails, both police and probation officers thought the offenders at the park were grandfathered in. Plus, many believed evicting the sex offenders wouldn't make kids any safer. "The prostitution and drugs will continue at the park even if the sex offenders leave," one cop wrote. "And there has not been one incident with a sex offender targeting" the kids nearby.
More troubling, there didn't appear to be any place where the offenders could go. "Having to tell irate individuals that they must move once again because a particular site was now labeled a school will make the situation difficult," Lt. Dillian Robin lamented in another internal email.
But such concerns weren't enough to stop the eviction. On September 17, police notified dozens of sex offenders living there that they had to move. The men who were still under parole say they were taken to the train tracks at the intersection of NW 71st Street and NW 36th Court — one of few locations left that satisfies the draconian restrictions. Others simply disappeared. "Sexual predators understand how to work around the law," a police memo noted.
Andre Moss witnessed the influx of predators to the train tracks. In 2007, he was picked up for cocaine possession and given a DNA swab. According to court documents, his DNA years later matched the saliva found on boxers owned by a 17-year-old who'd told police a man had performed fellatio on him at a Liberty City laundromat in 2006. Four years later, Moss was convicted of sexual activity with a minor and spent 16 months in jail.
When he got out, he says, his probation officer gave him "a few weeks" to find housing that was beyond 2,500 feet from a school, but he couldn't.
"That's when they told me about these train tracks and I had to live on the street," he says. That realization crushed his family. "I don't understand what happened," his mother, Gail Moss, wrote the court in October 2011. "Is this what the system is all about? Not helping anyone, by banning him from his family?"
Once at the train tracks, Moss met Kenneth Rozier. The tall 27-year-old with gold-plated teeth had also just arrived after serving time for lascivious battery on a child. In 2005, Rozier, who was then 21, "implied he had a gun and would shoot" a 15-year-old girl if she didn't have sex with him, according to Miami-Dade Police. (Rozier claims the teen was his girlfriend and the sex was consensual.)
Rozier soon found himself wishing he was still incarcerated. "When I was in prison, I had somewhere to sleep, a roof, food. Out here, I don't have any of that. I have to pee in a cup at night. I don't have anywhere to sleep. People crap in the bushes. Most nights I wish I was still locked up."
In those early days, Moss and Rozier say, there were only a dozen offenders living at the train tracks. But last September, droves suddenly arrived with nowhere else to go. They'd all come from River Park after the eviction.