Dianne Frazee-Walker  

Venturing far into the swamp lands of southern Florida, alligators lazily crawl through murky irrigation waterways and sugar cane lines the marshy fields. Further down the muddy road, old plantation flats border the homestead grounds.

Prior to the 60s the dwellings were used to house seasonal Caribbean sugar cane workers. Eventually, modern machinery replaced human laborers and the plantations deteriorated.  

Today, plantation workers harvesting sugar cane are a memory of the past. The area is now known as Miracle Village, tucked-in miles away from the closest town, Pahokee.  

The name Miracle Village is a reminder of a tranquil country retreat, but in 2009 the Christian non-profit organization — Mathew 25 Ministries — transformed the abandoned, rat-infested plantation into housing for sex offenders released from prison.

Last head count, according to Pat Powers, executive director of Miracle Village, the grounds housed 155 sex offenders.

It’s an even trade. The residents maintain the lawns and houses in return for the opportunity to live in a supportive community, minus ceaseless shame for being a registered sex offender. 

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By Aaron C. Davis

Maryland officials in recent weeks quietly removed the mug  shot of convicted child molester Robert M. Haines Jr. from the state’s  sex-offender registry.

They also deleted the Internet link to the former  middle school teacher’s guilty plea to charges he abused a 13-year-old student  decades ago. Haines’s physical description, the address of the cottage he lives  in near Annapolis, the make and model of the car he drives: Everything the state  had tracked for years to keep him from anonymity was erased.

Haines was  removed not because he was exonerated of his crime. His information was taken  down because of a recent ruling by the state’s Court of Appeals declaring  sex-offender registration unconstitutional punishment for those who committed  crimes before the registry began in 1995.

Under the ruling, Haines may be  the first of almost one in four registered sex offenders who Maryland could be  forced to scrub from its online database. Maryland officials are now bracing for  the possibility that a wave of lawsuits following his case could require the  state to delist roughly 1,800 of its 8,000 registered sex offenders, state  records, e-mails and interviews show. State officials say they’ll forcefully  challenge each suit.

And the fallout could go further. The state’s  second-highest court is now weighing whether the Haines case should be applied  to a broader group, beginning with a Montgomery County man who pleaded guilty in  2001 to preying on a 12-year-old Pennsylvania girl over the  Internet.

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