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Residents Fight New Housing for Registered Sex Offenders in South Carolina

Por Sarah Einselen
sex offender
Shield Ministries, run by registered sex offender David Truluck who also serves as a pastor, is planning a new halfway house in rural South Carolina. (Photos: SC Sex Offender Registry / Screenshot)

Residents of Walterboro, a small town west of Charleston, South Carolina, are banding together to stop a new Christian halfway house that would house up to 10 registered sex offenders.

About 970 people have joined Stop Pedofiles on Barracada Road, a new Facebook group designed to resist the facility that Shield Ministries from Charleston would operate.

“How does anyone think this even close to being okay?” asked one person in the group. There is additional worry because the director of the Shield’s program was convicted in 2003 of committing or attempting a lewd act on a child under age 16.

But there is support for Shield’s treatment approach in the South Carolina legal community. “Shield is a faith based and science-based treatment program that requires accountability and leads to real public safety,” said D. Ashley Pennington, recently retired Ninth Circuit Public Defender, in a statement that Shield released.

Hace poco, Shield Ministries, which operates two similar facilities in North Charleston, announced it intends to open a “Phase 1” educational and worship center to house up to 55 men on a vacant church campus in Walterboro, a city of about 5,400 an hour’s drive from Charleston. The men in the Walterboro program would be either “pre-release” or “post-release” from prison and complete two other phases of their rehab in North Charleston.

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Seven to 10 would be registered sex offenders, Shield Ministries Director David Truluck told El Informe Roys (TRR). He said all residents would have to adhere to a curfew and have a Shield chaperone when leaving the facility, among other measures. It’s not clear how soon the facility would be operational.

Truluck’s resume indicates he is ordained and also serves as Shield’s senior pastor. In 2003, he was also charged with a felony, according to Shield’s website. South Carolina’s sex offender registry indicates he was convicted.

Lisa Langdale, one of the Facebook group’s administrators, said the facility would be in a “heavily populated neighborhood” with “a lot of children” nearby.

“If this was a halfway house for women or even nonviolent offenders or something like that, that would be one thing,” Langdale told TRR. “I’d be up there volunteering.”

But she doesn’t want to risk a child being hurt, she explained.

The state’s sex offender registry shows six offenders are currently registered within a mile of where Shield is planning to open its halfway house. A total of 51 are registered at addresses within three miles of the site. Like most other states, South Carolina places extensive restrictions on registered sex offenders, including limits on where they are allowed to live and a ban on contact with anyone under age 18.

Truluck told TRR the organization’s priority is public safety.

“We have successfully operated facilities in North Charleston for over 10 years and will work diligently with law enforcement agencies to mitigate issues,” Truluck wrote in an email.

Shield Ministries admitted 60 out of 118 applicants to its programs last year, according to its 2021 annual report, and graduated seven participants. The report indicates 70% of Shield’s participants are registered sex offenders.

Over the last four years, about 5% of Shield program participants who had not graduated violated their probation, and no graduates did, the annual report indicates.

About 19% of released South Carolina inmates end up back in prison within three years, South Carolina Department of Corrections Director Bryan Stirling told WIS News earlier this month.

Condado real estate records show Shield bought the former Living Word Church building from Faith Church this month for $1 million.

Daryl Hunt, pastor of the Walterboro campus of Faith Church, initially defended Shield’s plans on Facebook. He wrote the ministry “seeks to keep men off the streets, out of prison, and help them find gainful employment.” He added Truluck is a friend of his.

Hunt’s original Facebook post has since been removed. Hunt told TRR he wrote it to encourage people to get in touch so Hunt could arrange meetings with Truluck, but only one person asked to meet. The rest of the responses were derogatory, he said.

Hunt told TRR he doesn’t approve of sexual abuse or criminal behavior. He added he recognizes “many abusers were themselves abused” and sees Shield as helping “break this vicious cycle.”

On Wednesday, Dec. 28, a public meeting was held to discuss the plan.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story misstated Daryl Hunt’s name. This version has been updated.

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29 Respuestas

  1. I am completely in agreement in having this facility. With one rule. If anyone reoffends then all the staff go to jail for life. Hey religious do gooders. You ready to put your money where your mouths are? I expect no.

  2. Complicated issue.

    I’m a steadfast supporter of restorative justice. But as a child protection professional, I’m realistic about the fact that pedophiles who have been caught abusing children are nearly certain to have had many more victims that no one will ever know about, and that they’re highly likely to reoffend.

    When evaluating the risks, one must always prioritize the needs of victims and the safety of potential victims. So while I’m not in favor of “locking them up and throwing away the key,” I’m highly skeptical of any programs that claim near-zero recidivism.

    Realism about pedophilia and sexual predation is the necessary starting point for any program purporting to offer rehabilitation.

    1. The vast majority of convicted sex offenders never committed a sex act with anyone unlawfully. Most were caught in a sophisticated sting where the the authorities play-act a minor on the internet. Often with codes that obscure the age of the woman being “offered” fopr sex. These men get sentences after plea deals where the book is thrown at them if they do not opt for the plea deal.

      Those caught this way seldom re-offend as their lives become hell on earth in the few years they spend in prison, and then the scarlet “A” that they live with for at least 10 years, and some for the rest of their lives. The constitution calls for punishment that fits the crime. These men’s punishment is cruel when seen against their ;crime’.

      Most of these men were trapped by skilled law enforcement and most never committed the act. Their crime was conspiracy of committing the act, not committing the act. For that they get a lifelong stigma as evidenced by both the community where they are wanting to help these men, and by the ignorance of those who claim a high recidivism rate. These men hardly ever reoffend. Many walk with a limp anbd other PTSD after being repeatedly beaten up in prison. I applaud this man for trying to help, and I pray that our country leaves men who have served time for their conspiring to commit the crime alone after they have been released. Not sure that will ever happen sadly. SO the church is oftern the only refuge for these men, and those of us that help them are targets ourselves.

      Sad that this caring man has become one.

      1. You have all your sympathies for the men, you use the word women, intimating they are not children, you seem blind to the crushing pain a child lives with once have been sexually abused shame betrayal always made to feel it is there fault, um you have no thought of those of us live with the life sentence that abuse has sullied us with, 50 years later getting flash back of that sick feeling in your gut. You don’t seem concerned that as soon as a child is abused they have had their innocence and childhood ripped from them. Yes there are reasons why people do evil things but why should an innocent child be risked to give them another chance. Build a centre for them out in the country away from children. Not all abused people abuse, but once they have it seems a very hard thing to stop. Would you risk your child. It sounds like you have had a close association with this subject to be so one sided. To me all children are innocent it is the adult projecting their own desires on them. I can understand how the town people would be very concerned any loving person would to. Not nearly enough is done to protect our children, it’s getting worst. Thing is these men lie to themselves first, so that makes it very hard to help them. And to be clear and fair it is not just men who are sex offenders, and the women who say nothing when they find out there own children are victims, they too need sentence. We live in an evil fallen world God alone can heal

        1. Susie, I used the word “women” as a part of the allure of the sting and not the victim. Conspiring with a cop posing as 16 year old child is not the same as molesting a child. Most of the stings catch men who are looking at ads for women, not children. Even the worst of the sites that facilitate sex trade do not allow ads that solicit sex for minors, as they then are subject to prosecution, so the adults who are posing as minors on-line use codes to imply the age. I do not think you could even find an ad on the internet offering sex with minors. The gateway is always women, and then during the sting the age is revealed in some way – often not clear. I have no mercy for molesters (I was molested at 9 years old by a Nazarene pastor). They should have the book thrown at them. But I have mercy for those who got caught in a sting by well-trained professional lawmen who trap the weak, who then go to jail without trial, serve their time which includes getting beaten up frequently in prison, who earn release, and then are subject to the cruel outside world that view then as repeat cjhild-molesters instead of what they were guilty of – having conspired with a highly skilled adult police-officer posing as a 16 year old. There is quite a difference and for those men I will show mercy and care and housing 10 of them in a house of 55 men seems merciful.

          1. You say that “most of these men were trapped by skilled law enforcement and never committed the act.” What percentage specifically? And where are you getting this data?

            I’d love to compare your data to that available from the Department of Justice:

            Out of every 1,000 suspected rape perpetrators referred to prosecutors:

            — 370 have at least one prior felony conviction, including 100 who have 5 or more

            — 520 will be released—either because they posted bail or for other reasons—while awaiting trial

            — 70 of the released perpetrators will be arrested for committing another crime before their case is decided

            Other data suggest that the average convicted sexual predator has victimized DOZENS of women or children BEFORE being convicted.

    2. I know I’m entering deep waters with this reply. But, what is the appropriate punishment for a sex offender, any sex offender? Take your pick of whatever category the offense falls into. Certainly I don’t have to list the various categories as I’m sure everyone is aware of what they are. Also here’s another thought. Should rehabilitation for a sex offender even be an option? And what about the victims? The victims of such a crime are scattered along the road like so many dead bodies after a terrible car accident. Or am I over exaggerating?

      1. Salvatore, everyone does not know what the categories are. They see or hear that someone is on the registry, and they believe he abused a child. Some did, but there are people on the registry who were registered when they themselves were children. Some of course are innocent. There are a few who did nothing but urinate in public and were charged with public indecency, the same offense that flashers and streakers fall under. Some victims are adults. The category of sexual battery differs from state to state and covers a multitude of behaviors, including touching someone on the butt after having too much to drink in a bar. And of course an unknowable number of registrants are those whose willing sexual partner was 15, 16, or 17 in a state where the age of consent is 16, 17, or 18. Some states have close-in-age exemptions, but some do not.

        Should rehabilitation even be an option for a sex offender? Dear Lord, do we want them to remain un-rehabilitated? Why would anyone not want rehabilitation for everyone who has committed a crime?? The question about victims requires a separate answer by itself.

  3. I had a friend, now deceased, who worked in ministry to ex-inmates, including sex offenders, and it was hard for them even to find a place to meet for worship or therapy because of the restrictions. It’s very important to protect children, but if people are not going to be kept in jail permanently, they have to be allowed to live somewhere. It’s not “safer” for them to be living in homeless encampments or shelters.

  4. There are other places around the world where this has happened, including Australia, where a Christian ministry to sex offenders is opposed by locals. And while Christians might see a ministry to such people as an act of grace, the world, primed by reports of Christian leaders being or protecting child sex offenders, see such a ministry as a continuation of such a cover up.

    I think the best solution is to actually keep these people in jail, and for Christians to minister to them there. Recidivism is a problem for sex offenders. So I would strongly recommend that jail sentences for sex offenders (specifically those who have directly participated in the sexual abuse of another, but not those who have viewed pictures) be a lifetime punishment.

  5. After reading this this article it has strengthened my most honest view concerning forcible rape and all forms of forcible sex crimes. I support MANDATORY DEATH PENALTY for all forcible sex crimes! I believe if this would be done in all cases this discussion wouldn’t be necessary.

    1. Since between 95% and 96% of new sexual crime is committed by “first timers” — those with no previous conviction for a sexual offense — I fail to see how your solution would accomplish what you imply it would.

      1. Having no previous convictions does not mean that the offender is a “first timer.” Most people convicted of sexual offenses have had multiple victims before they were every caught.

        1. That is why I have “first timer” in quotes. While some offenders did have multiple victims, research does not support your use of “most.” Actually, there is no “most.” There are too many offenses that are registerable, and some of them have no victims. But we can’t measure or act on what we know nothing about. My point is still valid; you could execute or keep locked up every person convicted of a sexual offense of any sort, and there would be virtually no decrease in new offenses. Therefore, we would, in your words, still find this conversation necessary.

      2. The fact that 95% of sexual crimes are committed by “first-timers” helps show that the recidivism rate is low. But, we are living a world where facts are ignored, and I do not expect our current society to try to correct the terrible way we treat sex-offenders who have done their time. Sadly, I do not expect the church to lead, nor fellow conservatives. It will end up being a group like the ACLU that challenges the severity of their treatment using the US constitution which prohibits excessive punishment. We who love Christ ought to lead the way in correcting this, but it won’t happen with the church as it is right now. Sad.

        1. That statistic is just not true. ALL major retrospective studies of convicted sex offenders demonstrates that the average offender has multiple victims BEFORE being caught.

  6. I am astonished at the people making comments who appear to have some knowledge of these issues and are still speaking of high recidivism. We can start with what is still the most comprehensive report done by the DOJ which showed an overall reoffense arrest for those with previous sexual crime convictions at 5.3% and reconviction at 3.5%.
    Not every state has done a comprehensive sex reoffense study; South Carolina has done two; these are the results:
    https://www.ojp.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/231989.pdf, page 3: 2010
    4% reconviction rate after 8.4 years.
    https://dc.statelibrary.sc.gov/bitstream/handle/10827/15783/DC_Recidivism_Among_Sex_Offenders_2007-9.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y, page 25: 2007
    4% rearrest rate and 2% reconviction rate after three years.
    Please stop the ignorance and look at the studies.
    95-96% of new sexual crime is committed by persons not on the registry. Virtually all child sexual abuse is committed by those in the children’s lives: their family members, peers, and authority figures.
    It is programs like this one that give these men hope of reentering society as productive, law-abiding citizens.

    1. Sandy, you can’t just filter out the length of time to only show the good numbers. Over long periods of time, the rate jumps up significantly and to me this probably says the earlier years are not real and the offenders just have not been caught. The data can’t ever show real reoffense.

      https://www.ojp.gov/ncjrs/virtual-library/abstracts/recidivism-adult-sexual-offenders

      But I too appluad the efforts for Christian restoration. If they don’t deserve it, then none of us does. Doing hard ministry like this requires us to take chances and set hard boundaries.

      1. Joe, I have read and written so much about recidivism that I find myself saying something, or about to say something, and it’s deja vu. Instead of my trying to explain this, let me ask you to read something I wrote for our blog over a year ago. I think it touches on every point you raise except one. The data does show real reoffense, but it shows it for what has already happened. It isn’t predictive in the true sense. I hope this will make it clearer: https://narsol.org/2021/05/lets-talk-sexual-offense-recidivism/
        And yes; forgiveness and restoration must be available for all who want it or it isn’t worth anything. Thank you for saying that.

        1. Thank you Sandy!
          Having been falsely accused of child sexual abuse, and seen the tremendous outpouring of (unreasonable) hatred and fear against “child abusers” tied with the idea that this is some sort of irredeemable sin, even on the part of Christians, I am delighted you are giving thoughtful and well-researched push back on this topic. God bless you and keep up your good work!

  7. Unfortunately, this is yet another complex issue where the Christian community seems to be clear what it is against, but has no solutions or clear message of what it is “for”.
    I mean, we will scream, holler, march, and protest what we dislike, but say little to nothing about what we propose instead.
    I applaud all the efforts around having a facility like this. I’d love to hear what those who are so opposed recommend instead.

  8. In Gavin Debecker’s excellent book, The Gift of Fear, he states the horrific statistic that pedophiles generally abuse 200 children before they are caught-and as many again after being released from custody. In a just nation people who use a child for their own sexual gratification, even once, would never be freed into society again. Saved or not. Some of Jesus’ harshest words are directed against people who hurt children.

    1. Cathie, most sex-offenders in prison today where caught in a sting arranged through a web of highly profeesional lies that trap the tempted. Once trapped, there is always a pretty extenive investogation that includes finding those that the “perpetratror” may have molested. If they find them , it radically changes the plea deal and a much harsher punishment is meted out. Most do not have a long list of 200, most never molested a child, and many did not know the intenet add they were trapped by did not know that they were being trapped by an adult posing as a child as and using codes that imply an age. Most do not go before a jury of their peers and the prosecutor scares the hell out of them and they avoid trial out of fear and shame, and accept a plea deal to havr a shorter sentence and years of sex-offender registration resulting in strugling to find work, housing, and the normal dignities of life. They are outcasts, lepers, who are forced to wear a scarlet “A” with the threat of a return to prison of the fail a poygraph test where the Co asks thenm the most lewd questions and tries to trick them into lying. Surely the safest place for these people should be the Church. I wish that were true but sad it is not.

      1. Mr. Smith,

        A few questions:

        “most sex-offenders in prison today where caught in a sting arranged through a web of highly profeesional lies that trap the tempted.”

        Are you referring to these “tempted” being arrested based solely on an online conversation? Or are you referring to the people that actually show up at a location, to specifically engage in sexual behavior, with what they believe to be a minor?

        What are these codes, you repeatedly bring up, that make it hard for a grown man, or woman to determine a persons age they are having an online conversation with?

        Currently, in 32 states the age of consent is 16, most law-enforcement use a much lower age (usually around 12/13) when engaging in sting operations, so the “tempted” cannot claim a higher age as a defense.

        “Conspiring with a cop posing as 16 year old child is not the same as molesting a child.” Agreed, but an adult should not be having a sexual conversation with any minor (aka grooming), that is not their own child/ or their guardian, or has permission from them for educational reasons.

      2. “Most sex-offenders in prison today where [sic] caught in a sting arranged through a web of highly professional lies that trap the tempted.”

        That’s an extraordinary claim. Can you share your sources?

    2. By far the majority of Jesus’ harshest words were for the Jewish religious leaders who outwardly kept the Law but had no room for Him at all.

      Gavin DeBecker’s book was originally published in 1996. Is the statistic you cite still accurate? If not, how would you say that changes your argument?

  9. A friend checked and every single sex offender living at the existing Shield Ministries had an offense against a child. Every. Single. One.

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