Carlos Campos has long suspected his status as a registered sex offender contributed to problems getting quality care.
Campos in 1979 was convicted of kidnapping, rape, attempted rape and having a weapon under disability.
In her testimony during his trial, the 15-year-old victim recounted how Campos and another man forced her into their car and assaulted her for two hours, according to news accounts. He spent 22 years in prison, followed by several additional stints for parole violations.
Campos, 68, is now a resident of Bryden Place, one of a handful of nursing homes in Ohio that house multiple sex offenders. He uses a wheelchair due to a gunshot wound to his spine in 1973, and has been in and out of nursing homes because of body sores that become infected.
He shares a room at the Columbus home where he has lived since August 2015.
Speaking from his bed in early September, Campos acknowledged Bryden Place wasn’t his first choice of nursing homes. It is far from his home in Wood County and he has other complaints about the conditions, care level and menu.
“I had better food in prison,” he said.
Still, he’s grateful they were willing to take him.
“No nursing homes in Wood County would accept me so they sent me here,” said Campos, who wanted to be closer to family in northeast Ohio. “But thank God I’ve got a place to stay out the weather. I’ve got hot water and soap to wash up and clean clothes.”
Offenders like Campos — some with far more serious medical needs — have few options in Ohio. As their numbers continue to grow, the state is faced with a vexing issue: how to balance providing care to those who need it while protecting a vulnerable population from someone in the next room or down the hall whose criminal history might include child molestation, sexual battery or rape.
At least one state — Oklahoma — tried creating specialized facilities for sex offenders in 2008 when its legislature passed a measure calling for bids to operate a secure facility that would keep offenders separated from other residents.
However, no bids were submitted and the facility wasn’t built, according to Wes Bledsoe, an advocate for quality nursing home care in that state.
In Ohio, about 44 percent of the 136 sex offenders living in nursing homes reside at just five facilities — two of them with an overall rating of 1 (far below average) or 2 (below average) on the 5-point scale Medicare.gov uses to compare nursing homes. Two others were given a rating of 3 (average) and one — Scenic Pointe Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Millersburg — received a 5, the highest rating.
Bryden Place, where Campos lives, has an 1 rating, though many of its cited deficiencies have been corrected, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which operates the website.
Bryden Place, with 18 registered sex offenders, has more residents on the registry than any other nursing home in Ohio.
The former Carlton Manor in Washington Court House previously had the largest sex offender population, but it was shut down in 2014 following multiple failed inspections.
Carlton Manor’s demise demonstrates the compounding issues homes fear can happen if they take in sex offenders, advocates for the nursing home industry say.
“The places that are going to be willing to take the difficult patients are those that may struggle to attract less difficult people,” said Peter Van Runkle, executive director of the Ohio Health Care Association. “What you find is that in addition to sex offenders, they probably have folks with other behavioral issues in those facilities. When the surveyors come in they’re going to find issues because of that population, so that causes them to get a bad survey, which drives down their star (Medicare rating).
“It’s a circular sort of thing.”
Some have suggested protective measures that include placing offenders on locked floors or in units used for dementia patients and others who are at risk of wandering off.
But others question whether such a precaution would put even more patients at risk.
“If a facility says we’ll take the sex offenders and we’re going to put them in our locked unit, well if the residents in the locked unit have dementia and are less able to report and prevent and defend themselves, I would think that would not be the right choice,” said Bev Laubert, Ohio’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman.
The ACLU of Ohio said separate, locked facilities are not a practical solution because the people housed there would be kept further from their home, friends and relatives.
Gary Daniels, chief lobbyist for the ACLU, said the offender database should be purged to eliminate the profiles of people who no longer pose a danger to others.
“What this really calls for is a change in our statewide sex offender laws,” he said. “There should be allowances … flexibility in the law that allows somebody, perhaps a judge, to go back in and revisit.”
Campos was told in August he no longer needs to register. His profile, including the details of his crime, has been taken off the Ohio online registry.
Campos said he didn’t mind complying with the registry requirements but feels the law shouldn’t continue to punish those who have served their time.
“They are made to keep you in check and make sure that you’re doing the right thing,” he said. “The laws weren’t made to adversely affect you.”