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Suffolk facility for sex offenders called 'inadequate'

Some conditions in a Riverhead trailer where Suffolk puts homeless sex offenders are "inadequate," the state has ruled, sending the county scrambling to install showers and hot water to comply with the decision.

The county already has let a March 1 deadline to set up the cleaning facilities come and go with no action.

Suffolk Department of Social Services Commissioner Gregory Blass said in a statement Wednesday that showers and hot water would be available "in the next few weeks."

"We have completed the preliminary review, are obtaining estimates and implementing a solution," Blass said. "The county is complying with the deadline by doing its due diligence and making a good-faith effort to comply."

The county's actions follow a Feb. 18 decision by an administrative law judge from the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance that provided yet another conundrum for Suffolk since it imposed strict residency restrictions on sex offenders in 2006.

About 20 to 35 people convicted of sex crimes but now out of prison are housed nightly in austere trailers at the county jail parking lot in Riverhead and on police property in Westhampton. The arrangement began three years ago to keep sex offenders out of the regular homeless shelter system.

Suffolk Executive Steve Levy has vowed to close the trailers, citing a lawsuit from the Town of Riverhead and complaints about conditions. But county lawmakers leery of sex offenders coming to their districts have opposed the move.

"We can't have sex offenders saturating certain communities," said Legis. Kate Browning (WF-Shirley).

Now the county must find some way to provide showers as it figures out how to move residents out of the trailers and into rooming houses or motels.

One solution - connecting a shower system to Riverhead's town sewage system - is highly unlikely, said Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter. "The town wants the trailer gone," he said.

Blass' statement didn't say what options the county is reviewing. He didn't return calls Wednesday seeking comment.

The current situation was prompted by two residents of the Riverhead trailer who complained about the showers, a lack of hot water, dirty linens, no pillows, no privacy and a reluctance among county caseworkers to help them find work and jobs.

The judge rejected most of the claims but ordered the county to provide "minimal standards" such as showers, hot water and help finding housing and work.

Don Friedman, managing attorney for the Empire Justice Center's Long Island office, a nonprofit that helped the offenders file their claims, said he believed the county was sincerely trying to comply with the decision.

Still, Friedman said, "this has been going on a long time. We would like them to fix this quickly."

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