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Bissonette House says sex offender isn't welcome

State parole officials haven't moved sex offender James A. McKinney out of a North Tonawanda motel yet, but one thing is for sure: He won't be moving to Bissonette House on Grider Street in Buffalo.

Even though a judge named Bissonette House as a possible location for McKinney, its program director said the home for paroled men hasn't changed its policy of not accepting sex offenders.

"State Parole and Bissonette House work very closely together. They know we don't take sex offenders," Thom Piniewski said.

The reason for that is because the facility is a short distance from a school for disabled children. The state has a rule that a paroled sex offender cannot live within 1,000 feet of a school.

"The last thing I would want is people thinking we take sex offenders," Piniewski said. "It would make the neighbors uncomfortable."

Arsonists and men who committed first-degree murder also are barred from the 12-bed house, Piniewski said.

State Supreme Court Justice Richard C. Kloch Sr. directed the state Division of Parole to find someplace to move McKinney, a sex offender subject to a strict parole program under the state civil confinement law for sex offenders who have completed their prison terms.

McKinney's presence has generated considerable political pressure in Niagara County. He was first placed in the Midtown Inn, a Niagara Falls rooming house that is located within 1,500 feet of an elementary school.

Even though the state uses a 1,000-foot threshold between sex offenders and schools, Niagara Falls has a 1,500-foot buffer zone law, and the state eventually decided to move McKinney to the B-Cozy Motel in North Tonawanda.

But a new church-run elementary school opened this month near that motel, forcing another move. Kloch said in court that he wanted Hennegan House, a rooming house on Seneca Street in Buffalo, and Bissonette House considered.

Heather R. Groll, spokeswoman for the Division of Parole, said last week that McKinney's whereabouts have not changed.

The no-sex-offender policy extends to all residences controlled by Peaceprints Prison Ministries, said its acting executive director, Brother Michael Oberst.

Peaceprints is the parent organization that oversees Bissonette House and Cephas House on Abbott Road in South Buffalo. They merged as of Aug. 31, Piniewski said.

Oberst, a Franciscan friar who has headed Cephas House for 25 years, said that the Abbott Road facility, which has four beds for paroled men, is to become "phase two" housing for men who have found jobs after getting out of prison.

Piniewski said Bissonette House opened in 1987, headed by Sister Karen Klimczak, who was murdered there by an ex-convict April 14, 2006.

Despite its history of being managed by Catholic clergy, Peaceprints is a private, not-for-profit organization not affiliated with the church, Oberst said. Funding comes from donations, private grants, state contracts and Social Services Department reimbursements for room and board offered to indigent parolees.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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