New York inmate Angel Ortiz did his time for robbery and attempted sexual abuse. Before he could go free, a judge wrote said he faced “an unwinnable game of real-estate Battleship.” Ortiz was classified as a sex offender. A state law barred him from living within 1,000 feet of a school while on parole. Prison officials would not let him go until he identified a suitable address. The corrections department “provides an inmate with occasional access to a telephone, instructs the inmate to find and propose potential places to live, and then informs the inmate from time to time that the proposed addresses are unacceptable,” said Judge, Rowan Wilson of the New York Court of Appeals.
Ortiz served an extra 25 months because he could not find a place to live. Most of New York city was off limits because almost all residential areas are within 1,000 feet of a school. “In effect,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote when the Supreme Court refused to hear Ortiz’s case, “New York’s policy requires indefinite incarceration for some indigent people judged to be sex offenders.” Even after his 10-year term was over, officials refused to release him. Instead, they moved him to what they called “residential treatment facilities” that were ordinary correctional institutions. He filed a writ of habeas corpus seeking freedom. Courts in New York turned him down and so did the Supreme Court. Justice Sotomayor issued a statement, saying that “New York’s residential prohibition, as applied to New York City, raises serious constitutional concerns.”