Brought to you by University of North Texas Authenticated Clark Abstract Emergency response personnel are called upon by society to solve, in a short and urgent time frame, policy dilemmas that have been perplexing even under conditions of leisurely consideration. This was because post Katrina, over registered sex offenders were placed into shelters and then evacuated to 30 states without the knowledge of the judicial system or the receiving states.
This paper examines these conflicting residence laws, the variety of sex offender shelter types available, and the challenges faced by the Red Cross, emergency managers and law enforcement agencies in using these alternatives while trying to provide equitable shelter options for all.
Additionally, face to face interviews were conducted with seven key informants— emergency managers from three cities in the North Texas Region, two high ranking American Red Cross personnel, and two law enforcement officials concerned with providing safe shelters to evacuees in Texas. The paper is concluded by offering future considerations for research and suggesting that multi-sector, multi-level organizations work together in sharing their challenges and finding common ground that will prevent the diversion of resources and multiplicity of efforts.
This will ensure that mass care and sheltering operations become more streamlined, and more reflective of the latest scientific knowledge. Bernard, and Plaquemines were evacuated to 30 states often without the knowledge of the judicial system or the receiving states, thereby frustrating public safety officials who saw the lack of coordination as potentially damaging to public safety USA Today MSNBC, The disappearance of these offenders concerns authorities because of residence and reporting requirements Freking for sex offenders.
For example, in Louisiana, sex offenders must register their new address within 10 days of relocating. Nevertheless, officials in states such as Texas, where thousands of evacuees traveled since Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Ike, say that few have come forward to register and are thus violating the terms of their paroles or probation MSNBC This has sparked a debate amongst multiple stakeholders about the state of tracking and sheltering registered sex offenders after national disasters.
Numerous scholars have studied social service delivery and practical support in temporary shelters, the associated effects of disasters on victim mental health Neria, Nandi, and Galea, the challenges of adopting adhoc housing policies, and a lack of attention paid to displacement issues Mitchell, Esnard and Sapat, More recently, the Post Katrina Emergency Reform Act has increased attention on sheltering for people with disabilities, companion animals, the incarcerated, registered sex offenders and other constituencies.
Consequently, several state governments have attempted to develop their own local strategies for providing sex offender shelters that meet disaster needs and comply with diverse laws, while not offending the general population shelter residents for whom sex offenders are an alarming and unwanted population.
Some states are requiring shelter operators to conduct strict criminal background checks of shelter registrants, notify relevant officials in cases where sex offenders are identified, and possibly provide separate shelters for them. For example as Hurricane Ike, a Category 4 Atlantic storm, advanced towards Texas in early September of , several coastal counties issued 1Arlikatti et al.: This initiative included an around-the-clock, toll-free hotline that allowed shelter operators to carry out background checks of evacuees they were registering, in order to identify if any were registered sex offenders and needed to be separated.
However, such efforts have posed considerable challenges for emergency managers, law enforcement agencies, shelter managers, and volunteers, including resource limitations, concerns with public safety, and in the most severe cases large numbers of people desiring shelters under urgent time constraints. The goal of this article is to review and synthesize the existing research literature, news media articles, governmental and nongovernmental reports on issues of sex offender identification, reporting and residence laws, and to illuminate challenges of sheltering registered sex offenders during disasters.
The aim is to be as inclusive and exhaustive as possible in trying to identify the challenges for multiple sectors and multiple agencies, in tracking and sheltering unique populations in disasters and to thereby identify research needs in streamlining the process of sex-offender sheltering.
The majority of the peer reviewed literature and reports reviewed were identified by online electronic searches. However, most of the published work was limited to the effects of changes in the sex offender classification protocols, notification systems and residency laws e. United States Department of Justice and Council of Governments , and a few journal articles and reports e. None of them specifically addressed the challenges of sex offender sheltering. Consequently we used news articles and blogs to scan for changes to existing sheltering protocols and new solutions being adopted by states and local jurisdictions since Hurricane Katrina.
Information from secondary sources was supplemented with discussions with key informants to identify the gaps in literature and the major challenges faced by emergency managers, law enforcement officials and Red Cross shelter managers in gaining community trust and ensuring safe sheltering options for all. A six member panel presentation on the issue was organized at the Emergency Management Association of Texas EMAT Conference and feedback was sought from the panelists and the audience.
Additionally, a presentation was made at the Dallas Law Enforcement Conference and informal feedback sought from attendees who were law enforcement personnel and had been involved in sheltering registered sex offenders during the Hurricane Katrina and Rita evacuations in The subsequent sections of the article are organized to first provide an overview of the statutory framework governing sex offender classification and 2 JHSEM: Given these laws, the differences in their interpretations by local, state and federal agencies are then highlighted to demonstrate how the lines blur, making it extremely challenging to house these registered sex offenders even during non-disaster times.
This is followed by an elaboration of the Federal Emergency Management Agency FEMA Evacuee Support Concept of Operations ConOps template which mentions sex offenders as a unique population but fails to provide protocols to deal with sex offender shelters.
The third section discusses the types of shelter alternatives that are currently being advocated by various jurisdictions.
This is followed by the data collection section which explains data gathering from news reports, articles and web sources and face-to-face key informant interviews. Challenges highlighted by the American Red Cross personnel, emergency managers, law enforcement personnel, psychologists, social workers and health and human services workers are elaborated. The final section concludes the paper with limitations and suggestions for future research. Table 1 provides details about restrictions and registration intervals for registered sex offenders.
Sex offenders released from prison have a recidivism rate that is four times higher than non-sex offenders when it comes to them being reconvicted of a sex crime Levenson, The first year is extremely important in determining if a released sex offender will re- offend because approximately forty percent of sex crimes are committed in this time frame US Department Of Justice USDOJ , Blurring Lines between Residency Laws Although state and federal laws require the registration of sex offenders there is no standard for registration or reporting requirements for sex offenders, or Classification.