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      Parolees in local motels

      Monday evening, a protest outside the Marquette Motor Lodge in Chocolay Township took place opposing the housing of state parolees.

      Although the Michigan State Police say placing ex-prisoners in local hotels has been common practice for decades, a recent spike in their residency in some Chocolay Township hotels has nearby residents concerned. Residents are unhappy with the fact that the state has a contract with the Marquette Motor Lodge and the America's Best Inn Motels to house ex-prisoners because it makes them feel unsafe in their community.

      "We want these guys out of our neighborhoods," said protest organizer Tony Rabitaille. "We want our nieghborhoods back and we want them safe."

      But probation officers say state prisons are pressed for money and room, and when prisoners don't have families to return to after serving time, the motels in their home counties are their only option.

      "I'm not quite sure why people are excited about them being there at this particular time," said parole officer Robert Decamp. "We do have a few more than we have had in the past and that's because the prisons are having more people paroled in Michigan at the present time."

      Opponents of the practice say the state is releasing more inmates due to the budget crisis. Residents said it's unfair that their community is put in danger because the state has a problem.

      "The corrections budget needs to be enhanced," said Shanna Ogle, a concerned neighbor. "They can't function the way they are; they can't keep us safe with one hand tied behind their backs."

      But parole officers say GPS ankle bracelets tracking the parolees will keep the community safe. Still, picketers beg to differ.

      "if you're in a hotel setting, if you're in an ankle bracelet, if I'm a patron of that hotel and my child walks down the hall, a sex offender could be one door away," Rabitaille said. "The guys in the next door! The bracelet is not going to do anything--the damage is done!"

      Residents continued to picket outside Marquette Motor Lodge Monday evening until dusk. America's Best Inn is not currently housing any former prisoners. Picketers say they will continue to take further action if their message was not heard.

      Representatives from the Marquette Motor Lodge declined to comment.