Homeless sex offenders abandon makeshift camp
by Kim Isaza
kisaza@mdjonline.com
September 30, 2009 01:00 AM | 2351 views | 2 2 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Registered sex offender Marque Miechurski had his sparse belongings packed up and ready to move from the camp  where eight men had lived in tents and used an open dirt firepit.<br>Photo by Mike Jacoby
Registered sex offender Marque Miechurski had his sparse belongings packed up and ready to move from the camp where eight men had lived in tents and used an open dirt firepit.
Photo by Mike Jacoby
slideshow
MARIETTA - The eight sex offenders camping in woods in Marietta because they said they had no place else to go packed up and left the site on Tuesday, as ordered.

The day before, officials from the state Department of Transportation, which owns the 25 acres, told the men to leave, but gave them one day to do so.

"It's really very common that we find people living on our land, often in tents or under bridges," GDOT spokesman Mark McKinnon said. "Simply from a liability standpoint, we don't let people live on our property, and as soon as we are made aware of it, we ask them to leave. This is a little different, with these people saying they have nowhere else to go, so we did give them 24 hours to gather their belongings."

The property is contiguous to a local office of the state DOT. McKinnon said his agency was unaware of the campers until Monday, "when CNN walked in."

Under state law, registered sex offenders are barred from living within 1,000 feet of a church, school, park or other area where children gather. The men living at this site, off of Cobb Parkway just north of the Canton Road Connector, told reporters that their probation officers had directed them to the site as a last resort.

Calls to Pam Rittweger, the head of the state probation office in Marietta, were not returned by press time.

The state Department of Corrections responded to questions with this statement: "There are approximately 160,000 felony probationers under supervision of the Department of Corrections. Of those, more than 6,000 are sex offenders, and approximately 400 are homeless.

"These homeless sex offenders present many challenges to probation officers and sometimes end up squatting in non-traditional locations in order to be in compliance with the law. While this is discouraged, the problem does exist. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the offender to find suitable housing; however, probation officers, who are sworn officers who take an oath to enforce the law, work daily to assist them in their efforts.

"There is no policy that directs offenders to live in the woods as a last resort in Cobb County or any other county in the state. While officers may have suggested the location, no offender was ever directed or forced to reside there. The primary mission of the Georgia Department of Corrections is public safety. That mission remains the focus of our efforts."

At the campsite at midday Tuesday, members of the media outnumbered the campers, all of whom had packed up and were ready to leave.

Marque Miechurski, 30, said his probation officer had helped him find a place, though he declined to say where he was headed.

Another man at the camp who spoke on condition of anonymity thought for a moment about whether he would want to go to a probation detention center.

Finally, the forty-something man with cropped gray hair and blue eyes said, "No. I just got out of detention two months ago. I'm not going back. I'd rather live in the woods."

As for whether the state regulations are overly severe, State Sen. Steve Thompson, a Marietta Democrat, said state legislators must decide whether the law is working.

"I don't think the state can have knowledge and willfully condone" such practices as probation officers telling offenders to live in the woods, Thompson said. "There's no easy solution, and I'm betting this is happening in other places.

"The state needs to address the responsibility of overseeing these people," Thompson said. "This doesn't make a lot of sense."

State Sen. John Wiles, a Republican from Kennesaw, said there are places in Georgia where broke, convicted sex offenders coming out of prison can find a place to live - "just maybe not in Cobb County."

"We don't tell you where you have to live, you just have to tell us where you are going to live," he said. "There are places they can live that meet the requirements."

He suggested rural areas.

And they are "reasonable requirements," he said.

"You've been convicted of a despicable offense," he said. "Is it inconvenient? Yes. But what did they do? It means they have to sacrifice some things."

He believes the laws were too weak before they were changed. He said new laws and modifications over the last few years keep convicted sex offenders "in prison for a very long time."
Comments
(2)
Comments-icon Post a Comment
erica levine
|
November 22, 2009
you said," probation officers...are to aid w/ finding sex offenders a place to go" are you serious? most say find an address we'll go from there. I've been turned down 11 places.you are welcome to contact me: 7707351880
anonymous
|
October 01, 2009
As a victim of child sexual abuse, I find it extremely difficult to have any sympathy for these men. Even after 40 years, I'm haunted by nightmares. Sorry they are having trouble finding a place to live. NOT! Life must really stink when you're convicted of a sex crime. Looks like no one wins when it comes to abuse. Karma.
*We welcome your comments on the stories and issues of the day and seek to provide a forum for the community to voice opinions. All comments are subject to moderator approval before being made visible on the website but are not edited. The use of profanity, obscene and vulgar language, hate speech, and racial slurs is strictly prohibited. Advertisements, promotions, and spam will also be rejected. Please read our terms of service for full guides