POV: Pervert Park

About This Episode

Founded in 1996 by Nancy Morais, the mother of a sex offender who had difficulty finding a place to live after his conviction, Florida Justice Transitions in St. Petersburg, Florida looks like your average trailer park. Home to 120 residents, their lives are heavily regulated: the residents are required to check in with Florida State Police twice a year, are monitored by satellite surveillance and are listed in a sex-offender registry. The park, which provides space for small businesses, has a staff of convicted sex offenders as well.

There are currently more than 800,000 convicted sex offenders in the United States, and the country has seen an estimated 15% increase in registered sex offenders over the past five years. But the film offers a mindset-challenging look at this deeply stigmatized category of criminals. According to Florida Justice Transitions president and CEO Jim Broderick, the park’s residents want to “become productive members of society and want to give back.”

Pervert Park does not stint on candid discussions of the offenses committed by the residents, who say they feel free to open up in-group sessions led by therapist Don Sweeney. Stories vary from that of Jamie, a 22-year-old man caught in an Internet sting after expressing interest in having sex with a minor — which Sweeney characterizes as a common case of entrapment — to far more disturbing and unforgivable crimes.

The documentary raises significant questions. Should America give these criminals a second chance? And can their experiences help in devising a successful strategy for reducing the growing number of sex crimes?