HUNDREDS of sex offenders live in a private, isolated community of 24 acres along a mile-long Florida road surrounded by saltwater and surrounded by thousands of acres of sugar cane.
The community has described itself as a safe haven for sex offenders who need a place to live because state law requires anyone on the registry to live 1,000 to 2,500 miles from any where there may be children.
It started as a pastor’s vision to help inmates recently convicted of sex crimes in 2009 and has grown into a nonprofit that appears to be adopted by the nearest city of Pahokee.
The Restoration Destination, formerly known as the Miracle Village, is located along a mile-long stretch of Muck City Road and about three miles east of the center of Pahokee and Lake Okeechobee.
Hundreds of men and women required to register as sex offenders have come and gone from religious communities that provide counseling, low-income housing and job placement.
The private community says Restoration Destination will have a pavilion at Pahokee’s biennial celebration.
The program continues to build on Pastor Dick Witherow’s work to help reintegrate sex offenders into society and help educate the public about the people who live there.
Residents are screened, and those who commit sexual violence or those with a criminal record are often denied.
According to previous reports, several cases involved an 18-year-old man dating someone he thought was older but turned out to be 14, or a man being seen by a child while urinating in public.
It’s not clear how many people live in the community, but a 2018 BBC documentary said about 300 people lived there at the time.
“Our goal for each resident is to provide everything necessary for their physical and mental recovery,” the nonprofit writes on its website.
“We have made a huge impact in their lives by giving them the opportunity to succeed. These successes have helped reduce homelessness and unemployment, reduce recidivism and re-prison, and increase safety. public and ultimately save taxpayers.”
FLORIDA’S SEX LAW PUBLISHING FORCE
Registered sex offenders in Florida must not live within 1,000 feet of a school, day care center, park or playground and may include other places frequented by children such as swimming pools , bus stop and library.
Some cities – such as Miami and Jacksonville – more than doubled the limits to 2,500 feet – about half a mile – forcing offenders to be in near-isolation.
“Our office regularly receives calls from all parts of the country from people who don’t know where else to turn,” Restoration Destination writes on its website. “Often we can help with advice and referrals as well as prayer. We are described as a ‘lighthouse of hope’ for the hopeless.”
SNAPPER BRINGS ATTENTION TO MISSION
In January 2013, photographer Sofia Valiente resided in Miracle Village for several months and took pictures of everyday life.
Nearly 10 years later, Valiente’s photos continue to be circulated as some of the best lingerie photos in the community.
In a January 2015 Q&A with Evil behaviorValiente discussed his experience.
One of the questions Vice asked was, “Can you give me guidance on your approach? What are your biases?”
Valiente said, “It was a delicate process. I didn’t know what to expect and assumed the worst. Whenever a sex offender is mentioned in the news there is fear. shared.
“But after talking with some of the residents, I found that they weren’t monsters. They were no different from you and me, which forced me to do the work.
“I know there are circumstances that can be serious, so I always have an open mind when approaching individuals. However, I soon discovered that they were more afraid of being with me than I was with them.”
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