(Blytheville, AR) Halfway houses help people on parole transition from life in prison to freedom.
But people aren’t usually very happy when they show up in their neighborhood.
Take one such house in Blytheville, Arkansas where several men who are sex offenders now live.
The men are hoping to get a fresh start and live in the facility for a minimum of ninety days while they look for work.
The halfway house is located near a neighborhood park and a daycare, but because the sex offenders are moderate risk offenders, they are not limited to how close they can live to public places.
While most neighbors are willing to except the men who live in the halfway house, the residents know the stigma of their crimes makes it hard to even get a job.
“Fear is born of ignorance. When you don’t understand things, it can scare you,” said Rev. Jay Slaughter of True Light MissionaryBaptist Church in Blytheville.
Reverend Slaughter runs the halfway house on McHaney Street and said the sex offenders who live there follow strict guidelines, while trying to find gainful employment.
“Nothing has happened. None of our men have done anything to endanger our community or themselves,” said Rev. Slaughter.
Five of the ten men in the house are either level one or level two sex offenders.
Sgt. Eric Farrell, the sex offender coordinator at the Blytheville Police Department, said the parolees there have fewer restrictions than level three and level four offenders.
Farrell said often the public doesn’t understand the difference as outline by the Arkansas Department of Corrections, “Anyone who’s registered as a level three or level four sex offender can’t reside within two thousand feet of a school, public park, daycare facility, any place that has a swimming pool for the public.”
Farrell said he’s received a few complaints about the transitional house because it’s so close to a public park and a daycare.
Sgt. Farrell said sex offenders of any level are required to register their address and place of employment at the Blytheville Police Department and routinely re-submit that information.
Monday we talked with a resident of the halfway house who would only identify himself as Jimmy, “I’m a sex offender. That’s all I’ve ever said. That’s all I’ve ever been asked.”
He wouldn’t talk about his sexual offense, but said he served 17 years in prison and is now helping run Rev. Slaughter’s halfway house.
He credits the Reverend with giving him a second chance and wishes other members of the community would do the same, “We’re trying to get back on our feet so we can live like everybody else. And everybody else wants to make that very difficult for us.”
Johnnie Wright lives across the street from the halfway house and hasn’t had any problems with the men who live there, “They respect me and respect my family. They don’t come in my yard, they know this is as far as they come unless I invite them in. So they give me respect and they treat me like that and I treat them nice. Cause they human first.”
People who live in the house do have a curfew but no restrictions on where they can go, unless outlined by their parole officer.
We’re told the men don’t leave the halfway house until nearby children have left for school and are back home by ten at night unless the have a job.