Background checks needed at parks

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 15, 2005

If the state of Alabama wants to live up to its tough stance on sexual offenders, it must have all its bases covered. One of those bases is the 1,265 evacuees living in Alabama state parks.

Governor Bob Riley was criticized last week for approving background checks on the evacuees, including the 200 currently living at Oak Mountain State Park.

Since hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf coast, hundreds of sex offenders from New Orleans were among those that fled that area. A large number of these offenders are now unaccounted for.

The lack of a fully-functioning police departments on the Gulf coast means that there is nobody currently responsible for locating these offenders. This means they could be anywhere in the nation, including the 13 Alabama state parks currently housing evacuees.

Four sex offenders have already turned up in the state thanks to these checks. One of those offenders, who was convicted of second-degree rape in Mobile, was found living in a FEMA trailer in Eufaula with a woman and two children under the age of seven.

According to Jim Walker, director of Alabama’s Department of Homeland Security, none of the current evacuees were flagged from Oak Mountain, but it seems reasonable to stay on the safe side.

Critics of the background checks claim they violate a person’s civil rights and come as another slap in the face to the hurting evacuees.

Ask any one of the many mothers with young children living in state parks if they agree and you’re sure to get a different answer