RI lawmakers discuss capping the number of sex offenders allowed in housing facilities

    Republican state Rep. Bob Lancia, of Cranston, is leading a bipartisan effort to cap the number of registered sex offenders allowed to live in housing facilities receiving state funding.

    Lawmakers spoke about proposed legislation at public forum Saturday at Glen Hills Elementary School.

    Lancia is the primary sponsor of two bills introduced as a result of what elected officials refer to as a growing problem at the Harrington Hall shelter on Howard Avenue near the ACI.

    One bill would require state-funded facilities housing sex offenders to notify local law enforcement about offenders taking up residency.

    The other bill would cap the number of convicted sex offenders allowed to live in a state funded facility to 10 percent of its population. According to lawmakers, Harrington Hall is considered the home address for roughly 30 convicted level 2 and level 3 sex offenders. There are three schools within walking distance of the facility.

    "When you start looking at the offenses for rapes, molestation of an 8-year-old, you just can't have that. They put them out 7 a.m. and they can't come back until 5 p.m.," said Lancia.

    "It's a pretty big concern. I mean, you've got the potential of folks that could obviously do bad things to kids," said Cranston resident Joe Gabriele.

    Lancia said the number of convicted sex offenders living at Harrington Hall has increased dramatically over the past few years as a result of several factors. Lancia said Rhode Island has a lack of "last resort" shelters such as Harrington Hall that so many offenders end up there because they have nowhere else to go.

    In addition, it's close in proximity to the ACI, where many sex offenders are released from.

    "There are cities and towns that have no sex offenders. They don't have to worry about programs for them. This is a statewide issue, but the biggest problem lies in Cranston and it needs to stop," said Alliance for Safe Communities Executive Director, Carolyn Medeiros.

    House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello attended Saturday's forum. Mattiello told NBC 10 that he supports the concepts of both bills and eventually wants to get them passed, but he does have some concerns.

    Mattiello referenced what might happen if some sex offenders aren't able to find housing.

    "I'm concerned that sex offenders might end up in our neighborhoods at night," Mattiello said.

    Mattiello and other supporters of the legislation argue the state needs to help provide more housing options.

    "It can't just be Cranston. It needs to be spread out," said Gabriele.

    Two more public forums on this issue will be held:

    Garden City Elementary School - Sunday, April 9, 2017 from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

    Waterman Elementary School - Monday, April 10, 2017 from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

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