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Oklahoma Housing Rule Upsets Sex Offenders

(CN) - An Oklahoma ban on the co-habitation of sex offenders is hindering the mission of a housing and counseling program, the group claims in court.

Hand Up Ministries and Bernard Lagrow sued Oklahoma City and its police chief, Bill Citty, as well as Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater, Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whetsel and Oklahoma Attorney General E. Scott Pruitt.

The complaint in Oklahoma County District Court says amendments to state law ban "two or more persons required to register as sex offenders to reside together in any individual dwelling during the term of registration as a sex offender."

Hand Up consists of 118 trailers and manufactured homes on a 14.2 acre property.

Lagrow says he is a convicted sex offender who wishes to live with another unnamed sex offender in a manufactured home on the property. He says he first registered in 2004 and that the law retroactively applies to him.

"The addition of statutory prohibitions is clearly punitive and retroactively extends restrictions beyond that required of him when he was sentenced," the complaint states.

Applying the law retroactively violates the ex post facto clauses of both the federal and state constitutions, Lagrow and the group say. They note that the law has been amended in 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2012.

"Each amendment could be construed to be applied only to plaintiff Hand Up Ministries," the complaint states. "There is a criminal violation for failure to comply with this statute. Plaintiff Hand Up Ministries was in existence prior to the initial statute being passed."

In a phone interview Thursday, Citty said the statute does not prevent the ministry from counseling or housing sex offenders.

Hand Up was founded in 1996 and is a faith-based program, according to its website.

It provides housing with utilities, transportation, meals and addiction recovery and support. The nonprofit currently has over 100 people in its programs.

The plaintiffs say the statute is unconstitutional should be enjoined. They are represented by David Slane with Slane Creecy in Oklahoma City.

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