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Claremont Man Can’t Leave Jail

White River Junction — A Claremont sex offender who is eligible to be released from prison will remain incarcerated because he does not have any appropriate housing arrangements available.

Craig A. Jasper, 32, pleaded guilty in May to a felony count of lewd and lascivious conduct for sexually assaulting a boy between 2008 and 2009. The plea agreement calls for a sentence of two to six years in prison, all suspended except 20 months. Jasper has been held on $75,000 bail at the Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield, Vt., since August 2012 and has already met his required 20 month sentence, meaning that once he is formally sentenced, he will be eligible to be released.

However, he currently cannot be released because he doesn’t have a place to stay. Jasper was planning to stay with his father in Rutland, Windsor County State’s Attorney Michael Kainen said, but his father lives in a sex offender exclusion zone in Rutland, which has an ordinance that prohibits sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of schools, playgrounds or day care centers.

His father is now saving up money to help pay for a residence for Jasper, and Kainen said hopefully a permanent residence can be arranged within a month.

Until then, Jasper is effectively doing dead time in jail, Kainen said.

“It’s hard, we have a lot of sex offenders who remain in prison because if they don’t have a support network on the outside who can help them get a residence that is approved, then they stay in prison,” Kainen said.

If correctional officers released him now without an appropriate residence, Jasper could immediately start racking up violations as a sex offender. In order to protect the public’s safety, Kainen said it’s essential that prosecutors and probation and parole officers know where Jasper and other sex offenders are living.

“If we have a sex offender who doesn’t have a place to live and he decides he’s going to camp out in the park, that’s not a good thing,” Kainen said.

This is not the first time that the state has struggled with trying to find suitable housing for offenders. In 2010, a Quechee sex offender spent 20 additional months in prison after his sentence had concluded because the Department of Corrections, lawyers and probation officers could not find suitable housing for him. In 1997, Michael Potter was walking down River Road in Quechee when he passed a 66-year-old woman. He assaulted the woman, slit her throat with a knife and fled. The victim ultimately survived.

Jasper’s sentencing was scheduled to take place Tuesday afternoon, but Kainen wasn’t ready to go ahead with the sentencing until Jasper has appropriate housing. But the victim’s mother and several of her supporters were already in attendance, so the judge allowed the victim’s mother to go ahead and read her statement to Jasper.

The mother told Jasper that her family trusted and cared for him and thought he was a good person. She said her son fears that Jasper will come after him for telling the truth, despite the fact that his mother and his councilor have reaffirmed that the young boy is a “superhero.” She said the young boy can’t spend the night at friends’ houses because he can’t be alone with other children and he doesn’t connect well with men.

“He doesn’t understand why you hurt him and he may never know,” the mother said.

The woman was joined by a group of bikers who call themselves Bikers Against Child Abuse. During her statement, the mother said it warmed her heart to see her son finally “start to heal and feel comfortable” with the members of the biker group.

As a general practice, the Valley News does not identify victims of sex crimes.

Jasper is charged with touching the genitals of a young boy who was about 5 years old at the time. The act occurred in Windsor.

Jasper’s sentence also includes five years of probation, and Kainen has said that Jasper must complete a sex offender treatment program.

Jasper had initially been charged with two counts of aggravated sexual assault on a child, but one of the charges was dropped as part of the plea agreement and the other charge was amended to lewd and lascivious conduct.

Sarah Brubeck can be reached at sbrubeck@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.