The game until now for parolees has been to avoid having a "residence." They had been told that they could fall sleep in a chair in a drop-in centers of homeless shelters, but not sign up for a bed.
One man we interviewed had claimed he was high to sleep at a rehab
center, or suicidal to stay at the psych ward, just to be able to sleep indoors. Others
slept in RVs or vans parked around the city. The poorest sleep on the
street. Case workers said the constant stress of moving around and
sleeping outdoors has led to guys using drugs and alcohol; they claimed
the stress even killed one older parolee.
Yet under the new rules, they now they can sleep in an actual bed at a shelter,
not just a chair. The new semantic game is to avoid a "pattern of residency."
Sex offenders say in practical terms that means they can't spend two nights in a
row at any one location. (And no two successive, say, Mondays at mom's
One sex offender on parole in San Francisco, who wishes to remain anonymous, says the policy tweak has made all the difference for him. He used to sleep in his van. Now he plays musical beds in the houses of his mom, grandparents, wife, and parents-in-law.
"I was pretty relieved," he said. "It took a lot of stress off of us. A lot of people were astounded and relieved. It's tremendously better for me."
Yet others, who've gotten out of prison after long prison sentences and no longer have any friends or family, say it's no better. Monroe Jones, who sat in the SoMA alley where
he sleeps on the sidewalk last week, says it hasn't changed his circumstances at
all. He doesn't have any family or friends with a place in the city, so he's still sleeping outdoors. And now that the parolee reporting center where he used to hang out during the days is off limits to sex offenders, he's outside almost all the time.
The change is "something to act like they're doing something when they're not doing anything," Jones said. "I'm on the damn street sitting down...It's just harassment.
It's simple harassment."
Even the offenders who stay indoors at various residences are playing "a very risky game," says CDCR spokesman Bridgewater. "If they're going to their wife's house and brother's house, how many times can they do that before it's an established residence? We can't allow them to circumvent the law."