Hot Topic: Nursing Homes for Sex Offenders & Violent Offenders

Sex offender in legal limbo over residency

6-27-15 Pennsylvania:

LEWISBURG — Can a man’s parole be revoked if he’s never been out from behind bars? That’s the question in the case of Samuel Grove, a Lewisburg man and convicted sex offender who, despite being in a parole phase remains in jail — 13 years and counting — because he has nowhere to go.

It also points to the problem of after-jail housing for sex offenders, whose freedom relies on restrictions for where they can live and whose histories make them unwelcome just about everywhere.

On Friday in Union County Court, Judge Michael Sholley continued the case for Grove, 43, of Lewisburg, who was sentenced in 2003 four to eight years in prison for sexual assaulting four young men in Union County in 2002.

Grove was in court Friday for a parole revocation hearing, having been transferred last month to Union County Prison after he maxed out his time in the state system. Aside of three days of release after Grove served his eight-year maximum, he hasn’t been free.

For those three days in 2011, he lived with a brother who had a minor child in the home. Grove cannot be around children, among other limitations, and he landed back in prison.

That time was up again in 2013, and again Grove was sentenced to one to two years in prison. Officials were ordered to help him find housing, said attorney Hugh Benson, a public defender who represents Grove. But again, Grove’s time was up and he was back behind bars, having no home and no options.

And here Grove is again in 2015, facing the same dilemma.

Part of the issue is Grove’s mental limitations, which Benson said border on retardation and kept him from doing any prison programs toward his rehabilitation. As a result, Grove served his maximum sentence — a rarity, Benson said.

Benson said prison personnel told him they would help Grove with housing "and apparently did not."

"If I don’t terminate this, what would happen?" Sholley asked Benson and officials of the Union County Adult Probation office and state Department of Corrections probation office.

Benson spelled out the conditions: Grove cannot live with or near young children. He must be outside of "a reasonable distance" of facilities children frequent, such as libraries, day care and even school bus stops.

"If the condition was gone ..." Benson said, but trailed off as Sholley shook his head no, adding there is a limited amount of sympathy for Grove. He committed serious crimes, and the priority is to protect children, Sholley said.

Electronic monitoring would be an option, probation officials said, but Grove would need someplace to charge the monitor for two hours a day. If the battery runs out and the monitor goes dead, Grove automatically is in violation and will land back in jail. Worse, if unmonitored, he could commit another crime and possibly another victim.

There’s a Catch-22 situation here, both sides and the judge agreed. Grove hasn’t violated his probation because he hasn’t been out. To get out, he needs an approved home plan. Not having one is itself a parole violation.

This situation is why Jack Wisor founded the Just for Jesus Challenge Homeless Outreach, he said. Though a controversial figure himself, Wisor is one of the few options for sex offenders whose time in jail is done. He has two shelters in Jefferson County and attempted to open a third in Union County to much protest from local residents who feared for their safety and that of their families.

"I’ve been doing this for 15 years, and now with my record I’m able to say we can do this for these individuals," Wisor said. "help them and still be safe for communities, get the person the help they need without institutionalizing them."

This is a new chapter for the state, Wisor said, "and something needs to be done, or you’ll have these situations where this person ends up on the street as a homeless transient." In those cases, such people must register their whereabouts with state police every 25 days.

Sholley had larger concerns: "The reality is I let him out and he violates again as soon as he walks out."

The order came down to this: Sholley gave 45 days for the district attorney’s office and Benson to file briefs on whether conditions of probation are violated when the prisoner has never been released from custody.

The judge also wants to know what specific efforts have been done — and are being done — to find Grove a home.

And, Sholley noted, "this proceeding will not be rescheduled again."

Something will need to happen, because there is another wrinkle in this story. Grove has seven more years of probation, and unless he can find a home, or one is found for him, he’ll serve the rest of probation behind bars. But eventually, there will be no choice than to set him free.

"If they don’t find him a place and he maxes out, legally they have to release him," Wisor said. "They’ll classify him as a homeless transient offender who will need to report to state police." ..Source.. by Evamarie Socha

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