Kevin’s Plight

[Note: Friends of Justice is a personal blog. I speak only for myself.]

About three years ago, I did some postings about a friend of mine I called “Kevin.” I met “Kevin” because he was a prison friend of Bernard Baran’s. After Baran’s release in June of 2006, I began corresponding regularly with “Kevin” and began visiting him in prison.

I posted about “Kevin” because I was trying to find him some outside support – which I was able to do. I removed those postings. Even though I never used “Kevin’s” real name, I still had (and have) concerns about protecting his privacy.

I personally believe that “Kevin” was falsely accused and wrongfully convicted. But he was bullied into taking a guilty plea. At the time he was 18 and frightened. He had no sources of support. His family is physically and sexually abusive and riddled with substance abuse. He was told that his alternatives were doing a year of easy time in the county jail or spending the rest of his life in a real prison. He took the plea – which he regrets to this day. His conviction can never be overturned.

What prosecutors neglected to tell him was that after he served his year they had the power to commit him as a sexually dangerous person “from one day to life.” He could only be released if he could convince a jury that he was not sexually dangerous. With the help of a terrific public defender, he was able to do this last May. He had just turned 26.

By this time, he had acquired two wonderful supporters living in the southern part of Massachusetts. One of them had a trailer on her property, where “Kevin” has been living. He has been unable to find work except for part-time work given him by his other major supporter. With the assistance of food stamps, he has been able to get by.

Winter is approaching and the trailer is not winterized. He needs another place to live by December 1st at the latest.

While incarcerated, “Kevin” corresponded with a young woman (who I’ll call “Janet”) who lives in a community near Boston but is not part of Boston. They began seeing each other after “Kevin”’s release and have decided that they would like to live together. “Kevin” planned to move into “Janet”’s apartment. “Kevin” also thought his chances of finding work would improve if he were nearer Boston. He worked in the prison print shop for a few years and is an experienced silk screener. Also, where he lives now has a very high unemployment rate and there are no opportunities there for even day labor.

As a preliminary move, he registered “Janet”’s address as a secondary address.

A couple days later, “Janet” was terrorized by a visit from the local police. They were told that if “Kevin” moved there, or even continued to visit, they would knock on every door within 1,000 feet and tell the neighbors that a dangerous sex offender was in their midst. The police had also helpfully called “Janet”’s landlord. (“Janet” hadn’t yet spoken to him.) The landlord threatened to evict “Janet” if “Kevin” even visited.

“Kevin” and “Janet” haven’t given up finding a home. It will be very, very difficult. “Kevin” won’t be even able to look for work until he finds a home. “Janet” has a good job in Boston’s Fenway area, which she can’t afford to give up. But without “Kevin” working, she feels she can only afford about $900 a month. And almost no landlord will rent to a sex offender.

I am completely out of ideas. I post this for two reasons.

1. It is possible that someone might be able to suggest something that we haven’t considered.

2. I think it illustrates perfectly the consequences of Draconian sex-offender laws.

While I believe “Kevin” is innocent, I cannot prove it. And even if I could, it would do him no good in a court of law. But I believe most strongly that he is not sexually dangerous to anyone. He’s had a terrible life and deserves a chance.

The courts have given him his “freedom.” But because society is denying him a job and a place to live, that “freedom” is worth very little.