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Sep 22, 2008 1:35 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Larger trailer for sex offenders placed at jail

Sep 22, 2008 1:35 PM

Suffolk County employs security guards from a private firm to oversee the occupants of the trailer, Mr. Hampson explained. With the increase in the trailer size, the county hired a third guard, he said. Members of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department also provide back-up if their assistance is needed.

“The sheriff’s office have enforcement rights on jail property and tell our security what to do,” Mr. Hampson said. “They’re not in there, pacing the trailer—that’s what the security does.”

He added that sheriff’s department patrols the perimeter of the prison, a fact that should allow area residents to feel safer. “They’re responsible for the entire jail facility, they control ... who comes and leaves,” Mr. Hampson said.

Michael Sharkey, the chief of staff of the sheriff’s department, emphasized that no one is allowed to wander the grounds near the jail and trailer. Though his deputies would assist trailer security guards during emergencies, Mr. Sharkey noted that the sex offenders can come and go as they please because they are no longer prisoners.

“If their behavior goes beyond what’s legal, we have jurisdiction,” Mr. Sharkey said, speaking about the role of the sheriff’s department, “but if they’re simply walking off the grounds, we have no reason to stop them.”

When sex offenders opt to leave the trailer, whether to look for permanent housing or to find employment, the Department of Social Services is responsible for providing them with transportation to their destination, according to Mr. Hampson. He noted that sex offenders “absolutely” cannot leave the trailer property on their own.

But Suffolk County Legislator Ed Romaine of Center Moriches, whose legislative district falls just north of the county jail in Riverside, does not think that the county is keeping close enough tabs on the sex offenders.

“I’m skeptical of the fact that they’re taxied back to where they came from,” Mr. Romaine said this week. He suggested that corrections officers who are on duty should monitor the trailer.

Mr. Hampson said the trailers are needed to prevent homeless sex offenders from wandering from neighborhood to neighborhood, and to keep them away from other shelters that are open to families who might have children.

“This protects the integrity of our shelter system and ensures that the neighborhoods are safe,” Mr. Hampson said. “It’s a program that should make people feel safer, not more nervous.”

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