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July 29, 2007

Questioning sex offender residency restrictions

Today's Cincinnati Enquirer has a series of interesting pieces discussing sex offender residency restrictions in Ohio and Kentucky.  The lead article, entitled "Sex offender limits: Too far?," begins this way:

It seems like a common-sense precaution to protect children: Prohibit sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school. But that simple premise — which has been law in Ohio since 2003 and Kentucky since 2006 — is quickly degenerating into a legislative free-for-all, fraught with unintended consequences, controversy and constitutional questions.

The Ohio and Kentucky supreme courts are poised this fall to decide if the laws are unconstitutional because they subject offenders to further punishment after they've served their sentences. Meanwhile, evidence suggests that residency restrictions may be counterproductive, forcing sex offenders underground and lulling parents into a false sense of security.

Hamilton County sheriff's deputies, for example, have arrest warrants out for 49 sex offenders who should have registered their addresses — but who have dropped out of sight. Seven of them simply stopped registering after the city of Cincinnati told them they couldn't live within 1,000 feet of a school.

And there's this: As more areas become off-limits, sex offenders are being concentrated into neighborhoods with few schools and inexpensive housing — neighborhoods like Westwood and Florence, an Enquirer analysis of sex offender registration data shows.

Here are some of the aditional piece in the Enquirer's coverage of this issue today:

July 29, 2007 at 09:06 PM | Permalink

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Comments

What disturbs me about the sex offender controversy is that it epitomizes the extent to which fear seems to drive our public policy. We speak of America being the "home of the brave." We make a big deal out of being a society of laws and revering our Constitution. And yet, when we get scared of something, it all goes out the window. We start whining, "Daddy, I'm scared. Make the bad man go away."

Note that in the Enquirer's letters to the editor on this topic, six of the nine letters essentially show a willingness to ignore the law and the rights of other citizens when it suits us. They writers are ready to label a group of people as less than human if they don't like them or are afraid of them. To hell with principles and our much-touted "freedom" and "democracy" if they are applied to someone we don't like. If the government says a new law will make us safe from sex offenders, then we buy it, ostrich-like, because we just want the problem to go away so we don't have to think about it. Forget the voices of logic and reasonableness which point out that sex offenders can walk and drive to where children are, that lots of them didn't target children in the first place,that if you can't find them you can't monitor them, and that offenders of any type are less likely to reoffend if they have jobs and places to live. We see all sex offenders as Ted Bundys and ignore the fact that many of them are Genarlow Wilsons: i.e., they are not likely to be a threat to anyone.

Interestingly, most of the Americans who go on about being "Christians" are the same ones who want to make absolutely sure that ex-offenders of any type don't get forgiven, ever.

By the way, I am not a sex offender. I am a mother and grandmother who cares a great deal about children, but also cares about her country and the increasingly flawed legal system that defines it.

Posted by: disillusioned layman | Jul 30, 2007 8:30:02 AM

Does anyone know the case citation that has been granted cert by the Ohio Supreme Court?

Posted by: Ben D | Jul 30, 2007 9:21:08 AM

I believe it's Hyle v. Porter.

Posted by: Ben D | Jul 30, 2007 9:27:07 AM

I am a resident of California who started doing research on the issue of residency restrictions for registered sex offenders when Proposition 83 was being considered. As a teacher and former political reporter, I am not very swayed by emotional arguments, and Prop. 83's arguments were overly emotional and fear mongering. All of the research on this issue, and there is much despite the fact that housing restrictions have only been around for about four years, draw no correlation between re offense rates and housing restrictions. In fact, many groups are fighting housing restrictions for sex offenders, including: California Coalition on Sex Offending, The Jacob Wetterling Foundation, and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, among others.

If one cares about the constitutional rights for ALL, one should care about this issue, even if one isn't an ex sex offender or know one. It's deeply troubling that cities, counties, and states are rushing pell mell to legislate away rights for a group of people (and their families) based on hysteria and nonsense. One only hopes that the courts will stop this head long rush to a police state.

Posted by: Mica | Aug 4, 2007 12:10:22 AM

WHATTHA !?! There needs to be a MOLINA LAW; one in which public officials cannot use present/instruct to jury known to be fraudulent/false evidence to convict;...cannot hide stated evidence of innocence;...cannot tamper with evidence nor obstruct justice. There are some who say you can receive the Constitutional guaranteed fair open jury trial...LET THEM COME TO CALIFORNIA. A basketball ref could retire on the rigged scales of justice for anyone to fail. The fact is anyone can be convicted when public officials knowingly instruct the jury on serious major fraudulent/false evidence. Because that is a fact has to mandate every person be allowed due process/review of case before any further punishment/restriction is put on him. The Constitution was born to protect Americans against government abuse. This is such a case that can make a difference. They can stop manufacturing more prisons by reviewing people's cases; "over-crowding" needs case review. Help me to help all Americans; thank you. donation MOLINA 927 south Bruce-# 5 Anaheim, Ca. 92804

Posted by: MOLINA | Aug 16, 2007 5:22:48 AM

I'm a sex offender, 15 years ago a late nite party got out of hand. i have not gotten into trouble in 15 years, not even a jay walking ticket.I did two years in jail and three years parole. I just bought a home next to a school and park.I'm married and have three kids,close tie to the community.I pray that the police don't try to make me move.I just want move on with my life, if it is still my life.I need help to fight for me and my families rights.I have to make a stand.

Posted by: jamie | Nov 5, 2007 10:20:33 PM

I'm a female college student, who committed the offense of kidnapping 22 years ago. The victim was an infant that I took while under extreme emotional duress. There never has been any accusations of sexual intent, and I served out a prison sentence. Upon release, I was forced to register as a sexual predator, retroactively, from the laws in Ky. 2000.I've been threatened, assaulted, the police refuse to protect me, I've lost housing, etc. Attorneys refuse to take my case.

Posted by: Beverly J. Cox | Jul 29, 2008 4:28:48 PM

I am a sex offender that will be charged with a sex offense that dates back to 1995 in the very near future. I have carried a tremendous level of guilt for many years that has, early on, affected my marriage and emotional state to the point of medication. The sad part is I couldn't own up to my actions to my wife or myself. It was her son, whom over the years has had problems, possible due to me, but was working with me (business shut down) and we had a good rapore. Understadable, to a point, she went ballistic when this came to light but the lies, manipulations and lack of any feelings towards me, a proffesional person, has made me think of alternative plans for my future. I have never had an incident before or after that time period. I was abused by two men in my youth but I do not feel this is what perpetrated my actions. With counseling I am trying to find out the why's to my actions. Oh, an update. My cell phone just rang and the counseler I was using said she is not qualified for my situation and has just givin me info where to go. $200.00 initial fee and $? each visit, and they do not except insurance. Lets ad in addition to the restrictions after prison to the vermin I guess I am in all eyes, forever. Lets not take into account the success I have had as a father (victim/stepson), business man, husband, community guy who will do time and have a tremendous stigma the rest of his years. I agree that as I have come back to Christ (could not commune with because of my sin) there are many sad "law abiding citizens, christiens" who are repulsed to be near an individual like myself. Judgement day for the judges/procecutors is clearly stated in many verses of Matthew and throughout the Biblical text known as "THE WORD OF GOD!". I have secured a tremendous job to pay my, alimony, support, and child support for my amazing daughter. I almost did not take the job for they want to train me for an extended amount of time for they have not had an individual like me come through there doors with such potential and they are "really good people". I will be gone, one way or another, in the not to distant future. I except my punishment, aknoledged my transgressions to my creator for that ill-fated event 13+ years ago! It is very difficult to have more faith than Peter did with the new laws, restrictions, ect. for individuals like me for our future. Truthfully, if you take a good look around at your fellow man/woman, most are trangressors on a daily bases, lying, manipulating, judging, ect. and in my opinion are a "threat" to the fabric of your community and fellow man,will probrably not get caught or change,and you who are reading, there is a pretty good chance you are one of them. So if sucide is an option for me and others like me (in which those I may hurt tends to turn me away from that recourse)
some or many of you say "go for it!". But realize I do not think I would want to spend my time with you folks like the said above, as I have had tremendous personal and business integrity, help others to a fault as my soon to be X wife always stated and hate to see anyone suffering in anyway . I made a terrible error in JUDGEMENT!This post has help me vent but also makes you all aware that "to error is human and to forgive is divine". Not all perpetrators are ever going to repeat offend and many just want to give back, as I do, with great work ethic and skills, active church participation, and community interest to all "we" come in contact with. Thank you for reading this.

Posted by: keith | Aug 14, 2008 12:21:14 PM

It's good to see that the opinions and attitudes of the general public concerning sex offenders is beginning to change somewhat. I am a RSO and I live in one of the toughest states in the US where the sex offender laws are concerned. Like someone who posted above, I was convicted of a computer pornography charge in 2004, served two years, and now have several years to go on probation. I did not physically touch or abuse anyone. I was fortunate in that I was able to save up some money during the year that I was waiting to be sentenced as well as in that I have a very supportive mother who has helped me a lot since I got out. Some people aren't so lucky.

For someone reading this who might wish that all sex offenders would just stay away, I would suggest that you first of all familiarize yourself with the facts. Facts such as the extremely low recidivism rate among sex offenders as compared to other types of crime, and how that someone can be labeled a sex offender for a multitude of crimes ranging from public exposure to multiple rapes.

It's very easy to sit back and point fingers at someone else until it effects someone you know personally. While I was in prison shortly before my release, the state changed its registry laws and in a very unconstitutional manner was able to somehow get them applied retroactively to ALL sex offenders who had committed crimes since 1996! As a result many people, people who had long ago paid for their crimes and had done nothing wrong, lost jobs and property due to having to comply with a set of residency and work restrictions that they now found themselves in violation of. Keep in mind that a large percentage of these people were on the registry for non-violent offenses. Is this fair? Does this protect society in any way at all? No, it was all political hoo-haw designed to get votes while appearing to be "tough on crime". It's fitting that since the enactment in various states of such laws that some of the leading elected officials have found themselves getting caught with their "hands in the cookie jar", so to speak. Representative Allen from Florida comes to mind, as well as Senator Craig from Idaho. However, like it has always been, those with power and money rarely have to answer for themselves like the rest of us do.

One very sad result of my states laws was the death of a young boy, who came into contact with a sexual predator as a direct consequence of the new laws. Seems that there was a guy living on his own who had molested someone in the past and was on the sex offender registry. When the new law went into effect he had to move because his residence wasn't in compliance with the new law. Having no other place to go he had to move in with his father, who is also a registered sex offender, who lives in one of the few neighborhoods that is in compliance with the law. (Interesting that it was fine with the authorities for him to live with his father, who is a likely cause for the guy molesting in the first place, but not fine to live on his own where he was harming no one.) It wasn't long after that that a little boy in the neighborhood came up missing and was later found dead, a victim of both the man and his father. Now, it's true that the law didn't make or force these two men to do what they did, but it's also true that the boy would never even have come into contact with these two men had the law not made one of them have to move in the first place! Of course, when questioned about it the architect of the states new law expressed regret about the circumstances but continues to proclaim how his law is protecting the public.

As a side note about the dangers of digging deep ditches while wanting someone to fall into them, one of the other writers of the new law, a woman, someone who was very vigilant in seeing that the bill passed through the state congress, can now sleep peacefully at night knowing that, shortly after the bill was passed, her own SON was caught doing the very things she was so adamantly against and is now serving one of the toughest sentences in the nation. Way to go mom!

The point I am trying to make here is this. Sure we need laws to protect the public; that's the whole point for creating laws in the first place. But in the creating of these laws let's be sure that our real goal is to actually protect the public and not to keep punishing someone for something they have already paid for. Is it in the interest of public safety to banish an entire group of people from society, making it so that they can't find a place to live or a way to support themselves or their families? I recently saw a news clip about a group of guys in Florida who live under an overpass because there is no housing in their area that is in compliance with the residency laws. How is that in the interest of public safety? When laws force people to either comply or do what they have to do to survive is is reasonable to expect them to comply? And as was noted in a prior post, how long will it be before other groups of people are systematically stripped of their rights as citizens of this country just because public opinion happens to be unsympathetic towards them? Who is next?

One final fact I'd like to point out here. Since it is a well known, documented and undisputed fact that the MAJORITY of kids who are abused are done so by either family members or friends of the family (people who are known to them), why would anyone think they are protecting anyone by passing laws to keep those people who are LEAST likely to abuse them (people UNKNOWN to them) away from them? Let me put it this way. If it is really the interest of children that we are so concerned about, which is what the passers of these laws always say, them why don't they pass laws which will actually protect children from the one category of people that they are most likely to get abused by, which is who? Family and friends of the family. I mean, if it is really the kids best interest we are concerned about we could take them away from their parents (a very high risk group for abuse) and lock them up somewhere by themselves to guarantee their safety. Absurd? Sure it is. Almost as absurd as anyone thinking that residency and work restrictions, as well as the whole package of other rules and regulations that go along with being on the sex offender registry, are protecting anyone at all. If these laws are in fact doing what they were designed to, then why don't we hear about a significant decrease in sexual abuse?

Come on people. A large dose of common sense is in order here.

Posted by: Bryan | Sep 12, 2008 10:15:21 AM

Does anyone know the restrictions for Pennsylvania? I can't seem to find any residency restrictions for PA.

Posted by: Susie | Feb 12, 2009 3:01:13 PM

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