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Tuesday
Aug022011

Teen Girls Housed With Sex Offenders in Wichita Program

Ozanam(WICHITA, Kan.) -- A state-funded residential program in Kansas was investigated last week for housing foster girls as young as 16 with juvenile criminal offenders, including "gang members, sex offenders and drug dealers."

Since 2008, there have been 142 police incidents reported from the complex, operated by the Ozanam Pathways program, including three allegations of rape, according to Wichita police Deputy Cheif Tom Stolz.

Stolz said that authorities completed an investigation of Ozanam Pathways's apartment complex in Wichita July 22, but found no evidence of an "acute public safety matter," noting that "food was in the fridge," and "the premise was clean."

But the deputy chief was not convinced that housing young girls with male juvenile offenders, some as old as 21, made sense.

"That is a questionable policy that we would put those kids in same proximity in one another," Stolz told ABC News.

"They are put in contact with manipulators or predators who sell drugs or already had sexual assault on their records or run with gangs who are very savvy and sophisticated. As a police officer for 30 years, that doesn't make good policy sense to me, for whatever that's worth," he said.

At the Ozanam Pathways apartment in Wichita, five teenage girls, classified as "child in need of care," and the 10 males, some of whom are juvenile offenders, live in separate apartments in a complex on West University. They also share a common courtyard space in the middle of the complex.

Ozanam president Doug Zimmerman said the Pathways program has a similar arrangement for "child in need of care" teen girls and juvenile offenders, including sex offenders, in their supervised apartment in Kansas City.

The Kansas Justice Juvenile Authority, which retains custody of offenders and refers some of them to Ozanam's pathway program, said in a statement to ABC News they are working to reform the current system, but that change requires action from the state legislature, and "it cannot be solved overnight."

Stolz said conditions at Ozanam Pathways apartment in Wichita were brought to police attention by a former employee on July 18.

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