|State officials call for SMOC investigation||Tuesday, March 21, 2006|
|David McLaughlin 508-626-4338||Metrowest Daily News|
Two state representatives from Worcester called for an investigation
yesterday into a SMOC contract that they say is "warehousing" sex offenders
in their city, a contract that has also come under fire in Framingham.
Robert Spellane and John Fresolo are blaming the contract with the state Department of Corrections for funneling the most dangerous sex offenders into the homeless shelter in Worcester, which SMOC runs.
"The offenders we've looked at have no prior record of even visiting the city of Worcester let alone living here," said Spellane. The Worcester police chief and probation officials, he said, have raised concerns about the number of offenders staying at the shelter.
SMOC's contract with the Department of Corrections, first reported by the Daily News at the end of December, is a statewide program intended to find housing for ex-convicts who are at risk for homelessness upon their release from prison.
Jim Cuddy, the director of the Framingham-based agency, fired back at Spellane and Fresolo, calling their charges "offensive and misleading and designed to incite." SMOC does not allow sex offenders to live in its housing, except in its emergency shelters and in properties it buys where an offender may already live.
"It's an impossible situation for us and an impossible situation for these people. It's a situation where there are no easy answers," Cuddy said.
Three Level 3 sex offenders, or the most likely to re-offend, are staying at the Worcester People in Peril shelter, he said. There is one Level 3 and two Level 2s at the Irving Street shelter in Framingham.
A Framingham Police spokesman could not immediately verify those figures yesterday.
"I don't think you would consider that warehousing. I think warehousing would be if we were moving all our referrals into Worcester. It's patently absurd," Cuddy said.
The Worcester representatives are raising alarm about the number of sex offenders at their shelter shortly after Framingham Police Chief Steven Carl called on SMOC to ban the offenders from 105 Irving St.
A Department of Corrections official could not immediately say yesterday how many or what percentage of sex offenders are referred to SMOC as part of the re-entry program. As the department requests new bidders for the contract, Spellane and Fresolo are calling for the deadline for bids to be extended until their concerns are addressed.
Veronica Madden, the associate commissioner for re-entry and reintegration, said the Department of Corrections is committed to continuing the re-entry program, and she lauded SMOC for its work.
"This contract and this service actually provides a tremendous amount of public safety support," she said.
Most offenders referred to the program, according to Madden, return to the communities where they are from. The department, she said, does not want those in the program staying in emergency shelters, but sometimes shelters may be the only option. SMOC, she said, continues to assign housing specialists to those clients.
But Spellane insists SMOC is not adhering to the contract's requirements to minimize the number of offenders staying in emergency shelters. In the last eight weeks, he said, 13 Level 3 sex offenders have registered as living at the Worcester shelter.
"How else would they get the address? They just happened to pick 701 Main St. out of the air?" he said.
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