While families and children begin to trick-or-treat outside, 30 men and women shuffle up the stone staircase of the Monroe County Justice Building on Halloween.
These men and women are sex offenders, some paroled and others on probation. They are required to attend a three-hour meeting during Bloomington trick-or-treat hours.
“This is a way to keep the community safe as well as the offender,” Ken Bugler, a Monroe County Probation officer, said.
These offenders are packed into a courtroom on the third floor. Some brought with them Subway sandwiches, drinks and books to try and pass the time. They stared across the courtroom at the flat screen television as “Captain America: Civil War” played.
Bugler said each year the movie changes and it needs to be reviewed for material some might find sexual.
No one is required to watch the movie, they only have to stay on the third floor of the justice building until trick-or-treat hours end.
“If you want to go out and read, go read,” Bugler said. “If you want to sleep, sleep. I don’t care.”
The three-hour meeting is meant to safeguard the community and the offenders. Bugler, with 16 years in helping facilitate this program, said he has not had any large issues.
“What better alibi is there than being with your parole officer?” Bugler said.
Ariene Gilbert, a state parole agent, said she has not had a Halloween off in her six years as an agent. However, Gilbert said she feels Monroe County has a good system for keeping the community safe.
Gilbert supervised 11 of the attendees who are currently on parole for sex offenses. Gilbert said her entire case load is sexual offenses, and she knows everything about those she supervises.
“I know everything about my guys,” Gilbert said. “I even know their dog’s name.”
Gilbert said she specializes in sex offense cases and never knows what she is going to find when she goes on duty.
“I carry a Glock and a Taser,” Gilbert said. “I’m a one-woman show.”
Halloween night, while a long one for Gilbert, is relatively calm. Gilbert said she has never had a problem with someone at the Justice Building.
“They have to be on their absolute best behavior,” Gilbert said. “And they always are.”
Four of the offenders originally supposed to be there had conflicting work schedules and were excused; however, probation and parole officers will be checking their places of employment as a precaution.
“That is the only way they can get out of being here,” Gilbert said.
Another offender recently went through surgery and informed Bugler he would not be at the meeting.
Bugler said he has only had one instance in 16 years when a person was not in attendance and also was not at home or work.
“That’s only one time, which to me was quite a surprise,” Bugler said.
In a Monroe County Circuit Court press release before the event, Chief Probation Officer Linda Brady said the meeting was meant to support a safer community for everyone, including sex offenders.
“Attendance at this special session is not meant to be punishment,” Brady said in the release.
Bugler also stressed this idea and said the meeting ensures no complaints about possible behavior against the offenders and insures the safety of children.
“This is strictly to keep them safe,” Bugler said.
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