Inside ‘Miracle Village’ where convicted sex offenders live on luxury resort

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In south Florida lies a small village with a population of around 200 people that serves as a safe haven for registered sex offenders.

Half of the residents in Miracle Village are sex offenders but the village also has families living there, including children.

The tiny isolated community surrounded by sugar cane fields was founded by Pastor Dick Witherow in 2009 in a bid to help sex offenders reintegrate into society.

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It is more than two miles away from the nearest town of Pahokee which is home to more sex offenders per capita than any city in Florida, according to First Coast News.

The village, made up of a small cluster of well-kept bungalows, was created so that registered sex offenders would have somewhere to live. Under Florida's state laws, none of them can live within 1,000 feet of a school, daycare centre, park or playground.

However, violent offenders or serial offenders are not accepted into the village, according to its website. They also claim not to accept applications from paedophiles, something Jerry Youmans, intake co-ordinator of the village, defined as "someone who can only become sexually aroused by a child".

One of the founders of Miracle Village is registered sex offender Pat Powers, who served 12 years after being convicted of getting involved in relationships with students he was giving sports coaching to.

Powers believes registered sex offenders, who have paid their debt to society, deserve a second chance.

Despite the suggestion that they don't accept paedophiles, another resident is Chris Dawson, who joined the community after being convicted of sex with a child – his 14-year-old girlfriend – when he was 19.

Dawson said he believed that she was older and had “no idea” she was underage. They had been together for three months.

"She lied to me about her age and had fake ID,” he said. "I had no idea.

"All her friends believed her so I believed she was 18 too.

"I used to play drums in a band and go on tour and have great friends."

Another resident of the community is Chad Stoffel, a former music teacher, who slept with a 16-year-old student.

Stoffel, who is gay and was raised in a conservative and religious home, confessed what he had done to a counsellor at an anti-gay ministry in a bid to become straight and be “cured” of his sexuality. The counsellor reported his crime. He was arrested and was made a sex offender for life.

As expected, not everyone was happy with registered sex offenders moving into their village. Linda Moss was one of them but things changed after watching one of the group singing and worshipping in their church.

“I was angry, had I ever known a known sex offender in my life? No. Did I ever want to? No. Did I want them in my church? Hell no.

“You only hear about the bad ones, you only hear about the heinous crime ones.”

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