New Paltz mobilizes as local motel admits Level 3 sex offenders

The EconoLodge on Route 299, New Paltz 

In response to a firestorm of public outrage over the placement of paroled Level 3 sex offenders at the EconoLodge Motel on the eastern edge of town on Route 299, New Paltz officials are investigating possible strategies to stop the community from becoming a dumping ground for predators. The New Paltz Police Department gave notice on its Facebook page of two Level 3 offenders being relocated to the motel on October 6 and two more on October 8. “There will be six by the end of the week,” chief Robert Lucchesi told the New Paltz Town Board at the October 15 Police Commission meeting.

As he launched a discussion of what steps might be taken at the municipal level, town supervisor Neil Bettez explained that the EconoLodge is the only hotel or motel in Ulster County in Ulster County that is currently accepting Level 3 offenders being transitioned out of prisons. Other lodging facilities throughout the county do accept Level 1 and 2 offenders. According to the New York State Department of Criminal Justice Services, a Level 3 offender is one classified by the courts as presenting a “high risk of repeat offense and a threat to public safety exists.” Such individuals are permitted to be housed in a motel for up to 30 days, under supervision, upon release from incarceration, if no more permanent residence is yet available.

The motel’s recent decision to begin allowing Level 3 offenders to stay there, Bettez explained, was motivated “partially by Covid. These businesses are trying to make ends meet” during a period when travel has been restricted. The supervisor said that “people who have served their time” are entitled to a fair chance to transition back into lawful society, but expressed concern that New Paltz is taking on too many. “As a society we have an obligation, but I don’t think it’s New Paltz’s responsibility to bear all that weight for the entire county.”

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Bettez and Village of New Paltz Mayor Tim Rogers have begun researching local laws passed in other communities that put caps on the number of sex offenders that can be housed in a single lodging facility, with a formula based on the number of rooms and the risk level assigned to the parolees. Fines would be imposed on motels that fail to comply, with the amount of the fine increasing if there are repeat offenses. Bettez said that it might be possible to pass a similar law at the November Town Board meeting, adding that discussions with attorneys need to happen first, and a public hearing must be scheduled.

On October 19, Mayor Rogers aired an informational Zoom meeting with Chris Farrell, a clinical psychologist and head of the Sex Offender Unit for the Ulster County Probation Department. Asked what had changed recently to bring the deluge of sex offenders to New Paltz, Farrell explained, “For the last three years, all Level 3s have been contained in the prison system, because there have been no places that would accept Level 3s under supervision…Housing them in prison costs taxpayers a tremendous amount of money when it’s beyond their release dates.” It’s the fiduciary responsibility of the state Department of Corrections’ discharge coordinator to identify hotels and motels willing to house parolees, he said. It’s because the EconoLodge was the only one to step forward that New Paltz has become the epicenter of the current problem.

While many of the objections raised by local residents involved the proximity of schools to the EconoLodge, Farrell downplayed this fear, noting that only about ten percent of pedophiles prey on strangers, and that incidents of abuse almost never occur on school property except in cases where the offender works on the premises. “I’d be more concerned about policing one’s own family and acquaintances,” he said. Best practices for protecting one’s children include keeping open lines of communication and making sure they “understand that their body is their body.” Most victims of pedophiles are “children alienated from their family. Sex offenders get very good at identifying them” as likely targets for grooming, according to Farrell, who has been working closely with such convicts for 19 years.

Farrell criticized the current corrections system in New York State for failing to create “halfway houses” in every town to provide transitional housing for sex offenders as they return to their communities of origin. Most offenders feel shame and want to change their behavior, he said, noting studies that show recidivism rates to be lowest when these parolees are able to transition into stable home environments and receive group therapy support. He also took issue with the system of risk levels assigned by judges or parole boards rather than clinicians, saying that the process is “flawed,” arbitrary and outdated, not based on an empirical, scientific model.

“The level system isn’t always an identifying factor of whether this person is hardcore,” he warned. Still, he agreed with community members on the hot-button question, “Why should we saddle one community with the most dangerous criminals?”

There are 2 comments

  1. Vicki Henry

    Women Against Registry advocates for the families who have loved ones required to register as sexual offenders. According to the NCMEC’s last published figures there are over 912,000 men, women and children (as young as 8 and 10 in some states) required to register. The NCMEC has ceased publishing the number of registered citizens as it will soon top 1,000,000. The “crimes” range from urinating in public (indecent exposure), sexting, incest, mooning, exposure, false accusations by a soon-to-be ex-wife, angry girlfriend, or spiteful student, viewing abusive OR suggestive images of anyone 18 years old or younger, playing doctor, prostitution, solicitation, Romeo and Juliet consensual sexual dating relationships, rape, endangering the welfare of a child, the old bait-n-switch internet stings (taking sometimes 12 months before a person steps over the line) guys on the autism spectrum or with intellectual disabilities and many others.

    If you multiply the number on the registry by 2 or 3 family members you can clearly see there are well over 3 million wives, children, moms, aunts, girlfriends, grandmothers and other family members who experience the collateral damage of being murdered, harassed, threatened, children beaten, have signs placed in their yards, homes set on fire, vehicles damaged, asked to leave their churches and other organizations, children passed over for educational opportunities, have flyers distributed around their neighborhood, wives lose their jobs when someone learns they are married to a registrant. Professionals indicate 3 things are needed for successful reintegration; a job, a place to live and a “positive” support system.

    The Supreme Court’s Crucial Mistake About Sex Crime Statistics – ‘Frightening and High’ (Debunks the 80% recidivism rate cited by now SCOTUS Justice Kennedy)

    It is very important that you read the abstract below and then the full 12-page essay by Ira Mark and Tara Ellman.
    ABSTRACT This brief essay reveals that the sources relied upon by the Supreme Court in Smith v. Doe, a heavily cited constitutional decision on sex offender registries, in fact provide no support at all for the facts about sex offender re-offense rates that the Court treats as central to its constitutional conclusions. This misreading of the social science was abetted in part by the Solicitor General’s misrepresentations in the amicus brief it filed in this case. The false “facts” stated in the opinion have since been relied upon repeatedly by other courts in their own constitutional decisions, thus infecting an entire field of law as well as policy making by legislative bodies. Recent decisions by the Pennsylvania and California supreme courts establish principles that would support major judicial reforms of sex offender registries, if they were applied to the facts. This paper appeared in Constitutional Commentary Fall, 2015. (Google: Frightening and High)

    A study reviewing sex crimes as reported to police revealed that:
    a) 93% of child sexual abuse victims knew their abuser;
    b) 34.2% were family members;
    c) 58.7% were acquaintances;
    d) Only 7% of the perpetrators of child victims were strangers;
    e) 40% of sexual assaults take place in the victim’s own home;
    f) 20% take place in the home of a friend, neighbor or relative (Jill Levenson, PhD, Lynn University)

    There is a tremendous need to fund programs like “Stop It Now” that teaches parents how to begin and maintain a dialog with their children to intervene before harm occurs and about grooming behaviors as well as other things at age-appropriate levels in their Circles of Safety.

    Our question to the public is one of, when does redemption begin? When are those required to register given their lives back without the stigma and hate?

    We support the principles of Restorative/Transformative Justice; restore the victim, restore the offender AND restore the community. Unfortunately, our justice systems, federal and some states, prefer to annihilate human beings using mandatory minimum sentences, leaving our families destitute for years or decades and call that justice.

    Our country is evidently proud to be ‘the incarceration nation’ with 5% of the world’s population and 25% of the world’s incarcerated.

    Here is an example of how our families are harmed. A well-meaning teacher printed out profile pictures of local registrants and put them on the board around the classroom. She promoted her effort to protect her students by suggesting they look at and remember those people. One student pointed at one picture and said, “Katie isn’t that your dad?” It was….

  2. Derek W. Logue of OnceFallen.com

    This “reporter” uses the terms “sex offender” and “pedophile” interchangeably. This is erroneous. Most people convicted of sex offenses are not “pedophiles.” You can be one without being the other.

    There is a difference between a situational offender (usually where there is a family member involved) and a preferntial offender, and the preferrential types are extremely rare.

    The system by which people convicted of sex offenses in the US, NY included, is a rather arbitrary process. Even in risk assessnent tests, there is a lot of personal bias and a desire toerr on the side of caution.

    NY’s own research has found the registry does not increase public safety or even influence sex crime rates at all.

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