The Julia Tuttle Causeway sex offender colony was an encampment of registered sex offenders who were living beneath the Julia Tuttle Causeway (JTC), a highway in Miami, Florida from 2006 to April 2010. The colony was created by a local Miami ordinance restricting where convicted sex offenders could live or congregate, significantly stricter than State of Florida law on residency restrictions for sex offenders. Miami-Dade County laws state that registered sex offenders are not allowed to live within Template:Convert/ft of any location where children congregate, including schools, parks, or homeless shelters. If sex offenders who were released from prison during this time claimed Miami-Dade as their home, and their addresses were located within this boundary, they were required to report to the camp.
In the past, the State of Florida provided sex offenders a list of locations where they could live that did not violate the parameters set by the City of Miami, but the closest was in Broward County. Although the Florida Department of Corrections initially denied that they were forcing the offenders to live under the bridge, a local alternative newsweekly named the Miami New Times reported that internal communication in the Department of Corrections proved this to be false and that released offenders were told to live in the colony or face more jail time. Prisoners who were released were issued driver licenses by the State of Florida listing their addresses as the Julia Tuttle Causeway.
As many as 140 people lived in the colony in July 2009. They were required to be in the camp from 6 at night to 7 in the morning, when a representative from the Department of Corrections arrived to check that they were there. Most of the structures in the encampment, described by The Miami Herald as a "shantytown", were tents, improvised wood, or cardboard structures. Some had plumbing and cooking capacities, and residents of the colony shared generators for electricity to recharge cell phones and their tracking devices.
Conflicts over responsibility
As the number of residents grew, the City of Miami and the State of Florida disagreed over who was ultimately responsible for the sex offenders. Miami City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, worried about how tourists perceive the colony, prompted an attorney from the Florida Department of Corrections to write a letter to the City of Miami absolving themselves of responsibility. The City of Miami responded by filing a lawsuit against the state, citing public health and safety concerns. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) had also filed a lawsuit against the City of Miami for imposing the 2,500-foot rule for sex offenders when the State of Florida's law restricts them to Template:Convert/ft within where children congregate. The ACLU asserted that the 1,000-ft rule would allow many of the offenders to return home. The camp was under further scrutiny for being within the forbidden area; a city park on an island in Biscayne Bay caused questions about the Julia Tuttle Causeway colony itself being a violation of the sex offender laws.
A local pastor, Vincent Spann, likened the camp to a Biblical leper colony, and offered to house the sex offenders in a manner similar to that which he currently uses to treat those recovering from drug and alcohol addiction. The former drill sergeant predicted it would cost more than a million dollars a year.
In September 2009, a judge responding to the lawsuit filed by the ACLU ruled that the City of Miami is allowed to set its own ordinances. The ACLU promised to appeal the decision. Miami is facing other lawsuits about moving the sex offenders.
Throughout the camp's existence, The Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust, an organization tasked by the county to help end street homelessness in Miami-Dade County, had been working to find permanent housing for all of the sex offenders living under the bridge. The trust is chaired by Ron Book, the powerful lobbyist who helped write and pass into law the 2,500-foot restriction. On April 15, 2010, the Trust transitioned the last of the sex offenders living under the bridge into other housing. However, further protest from nearby communities ensued. Several former residents of the encampment were evicted from a Miami hotel in late April 2010. Their residency status remained in limbo.
- Miami sex offenders form outcast colony, UPI (May 3, 2009). Retrieved on July 21, 2009.
- Thompson, Isaiah (February 6, 2008). Homeless Sex Offenders Face Eviction, Miami New Times. Retrieved on July 21, 2009.
- Allen, Greg (July 21, 2009) Bridge Still Home For Miami Sex Offenders, National Public Radio. Retrieved on July 21, 2009.
- Knipe, Julie (July 10, 2009). Sex offenders sue over Julia Tuttle bridge colony, The Miami Herald. Retrieved on July 21, 2009.
- Zarella, John (2007). Florida housing sex offenders under bridge", CNN.com. Retrieved on July 21, 2009.
- Garcia-Roberts, Gus (April 14, 2009). Pastor Spann's Master Plan, Miami New Times. Retrieved on July 21, 2009.
- Strict Miami-Dade sex-offender law to remain in place The Miami Herald (September 18, 2009). Retrieved on September 18, 2009.
- Valdemoro, Tania (April 25, 2010). "Shorecrest residents unhappy about relocation of sex offenders - Sex offenders? Not in my backyard, Miami residents tell their mayor and other city officials", The Miami Herald, Shorecrest.
- Lebovick, Jennifer; Beasley, Adam (April 20, 2010). "Hotel evicts sex offenders", The Miami Herald, p. 3B.
- Julia Tuttle Causeway (Sex Offender Issues)
- Julia Tuttle Causeway (YouTube)
- Julia Tuttle Miami Saga (YouTube)
- Once Fallen Julia Tuttle Causeway page (Once Fallen)