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March 18, 2007

Faith-based opposition to residency restrictions

Through a link from Sex Offender Issues, I discovered this interesting page of materials with commentary on Georgia's sex offender residency restrictions, including this document providing a "Statement of Faith and Concern On HB 1059's Church Restrictions."  Here is how that statement begins:

As Christian leaders in Georgia, we are deeply troubled by the implementation of HB 1059, Georgia’s Sex Offender Legislation.  We believe that HB 1059 runs counter to the Church's mission of inclusion and hospitality, of sharing God's love and grace and message of redemption.

March 18, 2007 at 07:19 AM | Permalink


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Given recent events, i.e., a Ga. boy being murdered, likely by a child molester who lived in a trailer park packed with kiddos, you'd think that they'd be a little circumspect. In addition, isn't it a little dubious for religious people to invoke religion when imposing risks on others? To take an extreme example, I doubt the Bible would have mandated taking Jesse Timmendequas and putting him in a neighborhood packed with kids. Put bluntly, do devout Christians have the right to roll the dice with society's safety just because they believe in the idea of redemption? They, of course, certainly have the right to advocate for it, but people have the right to criticize their position.

In any event, many many of these residency/registration requirements are overly broad and may likely prove to be counterproductive. Arguments should be made along those lines.

Posted by: | Mar 18, 2007 10:59:15 AM

Being as the child in GA was living with a member of that elite group know as "registered sex offenders", where should that child have lived since his own father was restricted to where he could live?

I have to agree with the other portions of the above post.

I am neither a professor, student or defense attorney.

Posted by: Susan | Mar 18, 2007 12:35:15 PM

The ""Statement of Faith" mentions neither "neighborhoods" nor "houses" nor "homes" and residence is irrelevant. I suspect federalist wrote the above post, but could be mistaken. Telling though that we are a nation founded on the Christian religion but sex offenders should not be allowed to attend church. Members of the congregation could vote with their feet, but taking the above to its logical conclusion, since we are a nation founded on the Christian religion, and sex offenders cannot participate in that religion, should sex offenders be banned from the county? (Many will say yes.)

Much of the case law I've found deals with tribal banishment, for example Plenary membership power is in the final analysis a tyrannical power, one that is irreconcilable with modern republican values, and whose only true palliative is revolution. [AN ARGUMENT FOR THE PARTIAL ABROGATION OF FEDERALLY RECOGNIZED INDIAN TRIBES’ SOVEREIGN POWER OVER MEMBERSHIP (pdf, p 801)].

The note quotes Kennedy v. Mendoza-Martinez, 372 U.S. 144, 168 n.23 (1963):

"[F]orfeiture of citizenship and the related devices of banishment and exile have throughout history been used as punishment. . . . Banishment was a weapon in the English legal arsenal for centuries, but it was always adjudged a harsh punishment even by men who were accustomed to brutality in the administration of criminal justice."

Some in the legislature flatly state their goal is banishment from the state.

The first case I could find on banishment is COOPER v. TELFAIR, 4 U.S. 14, (a treason case) and it was affirmed, but the opinion evidently spoke to laws enacted before the ratification of the Constitution and implied those laws would be unconstitutional after ratification (a very difficult opinion to read) and this was clarified in United States v. Brown, 334 F.2d 488, which quotes Alexander Hamilton:

"Nothing is more common than for a free people, in times of heat and violence, to gratify momentary passions by letting into the government principles and precedents which afterwards prove fatal to themselves. Of this kind is the doctrine of disqualification, disfranchisement, and banishment by acts of the legislature. The dangerous consequences of this power are manifest. If the legislature can disfranchise any number of citizens at pleasure by general descriptions, it may soon confine all the votes to a small number of partisans, and establish an aristocracy or an oligarchy; if it may banish at discretion all those whom particular circumstances render obnoxious, without hearing or trial, no man can be safe, nor know when he may be the innocent victim of a prevailing faction. The name of liberty applied to such a government would be a mockery of common sense.."

Posted by: George | Mar 18, 2007 6:34:48 PM

George, do you even read what you're responding to?

I am not generally in favor of post-parole, one size fits all, restrictions on sex offenders and have said so. But we need to focus, laser-like on certain of them because they are so dangerous. You may think that's a sacrifice we need to make. Fine. Say so. But you know, everyone knew Lawrence Singleton was going to offend once released. People like you criticized parents and homeowners for wanting this guy nowhere near their homes and children. Of course, someone wound up dead because of idiotic and immoral policies that allowed a guy who hacked off the arms of a 14 year old girl and left her for dead to walk the streets again a free man.

You know what, my posts are strident. Why? Because I, for one, am sick and tired of all of these preventable tragedies. And to respond to another post, I do care about what happens to criminals once they are incarcerated--just not very much. Widespread prison violence is unacceptable (and may, by the way, be the reason so many child molesters kill their victims), as is not providing some kind of rehabilitation (work opportunities, education etc.). However, on the scale of issue, prisoners' rights is pretty low for me. Whereas you seem to shed a tear for the Ken Biroses of this world. Personally, I wonder why. I think it stems from a desire to show how morally enlightened you are.

Posted by: federalist | Mar 18, 2007 9:01:14 PM

"But we need to focus, laser-like on certain of them because they are so dangerous. You may think that's a sacrifice we need to make. Fine. Say so. But you know, everyone knew Lawrence Singleton was going to offend once released."

We agree, but are we are not doing that and so cut out the condescending "people like you" want Singleton free. Nobody but nobody wanted Singleton free. There you go again. Link to one, just one, serious argument anywhere on the Internet that argued for Singleton's release or pardon or anything like it. Rather, the laws got a lot tougher after 1979. (Had to Google it.)

But because Singleton should have got LWOP that doesn't mean someone else should get 50-to-life for petty theft because Richard Allen Davis killed Polly Klass or 55 years for sales of pot or 200 years for possession of child porn. Justice is for everyone.

We are not always focusing on the truly dangerous and instead of a laser-like approach we use a shotgun. We agree except for the choice of weapon. While people convicted of lesser crimes are in no way as innocent as Mary Bell Vincent, neither are they as guilty as Singleton or Davis or Couey. We should quit comparing them when there is no comparison other than they broke the law.

"And forasmuch as the experience of all ages and countries hath shewn, that cruel and sanguinary laws defeat their own purpose, by engaging the benevolence of mankind to withhold prosecutions, to smother testimony, or to listen to it with bias; and by producing in many instances a total dispensation and impunity under the names of pardon and privilege of clergy; when, if the punishment were only proportioned to the injury, men would feel it their inclination, as well as their duty, to see the laws observed; and the power of dispensation, so dangerous and mischievous, which produces crimes by holding up a hope of impunity, might totally be abolished, so that men while contemplating to perpetrate a crime would see their punishment ensuing as necessarily as effects follow their causes; for rendering crimes and punishments, therefore, more proportionate to each other." Jefferson. "A Bill for Proportioning Crimes and Punishments."

Posted by: George | Mar 18, 2007 11:43:58 PM

Christopher Barrios did not have to die, but he did, why? If we look at the events of the 2006 Georgia legislative session, we can find answers.

1. Had the Georgia Representatives (led by Jerry Keen) and Senators (led by Eric Johnson) listened to Dr. Gene Able or Dr. James E Stark, and the other experts who spoke at the hearings last year, Christopher Barrios might still be alive today.
2. Had they listened to the RSO’s who spoke at the hearings last year, Christopher Barrios might still be alive today.
3. Had they implemented RISK ASSESSMENT and a risk level system for ALL the current RSO’s and not just the new ones after July 1, 2006, as was recommended to them, Christopher Barrios might still be alive today.
4. Had they listened to the experts in Law Enforcement, and not forced Law Enforcement to spend all their resources on chasing LOW RISK offenders away from churches and employment, Christopher Barrios might still be alive today.
5. ALL the Laws and Restrictions in the WORLD will NOT STOP someone who wants to offend, the Sex Offender Registry does not make children safer, and neither do SAFETY ZONES; however, THERAPY DOES. Offenders in therapy have the lowest recidivism rate. Had the legislators used common sense in place of political posturing, Christopher Barrios might still be alive today.
6. Because they FAILED to LISTEN to the experts, because they FAILED to LISTEN to Law Enforcement, because they were looking for election year sound bites, they are JUST AS RESPONSIBLE for the death of Christopher Barrios as the perpetrator is.

Again, I ask the people of Georgia to LISTEN to the experts, and force their elected representatives to do the same. Within the past year, these experts have voiced their concern about the new laws, well-intentioned lawmakers are enacting. Here is what they are saying.

“What you’re doing is pushing people more underground, pushing them away from treatment and pushing them away from monitoring, you’re really not improving the safety, but you are giving people a false sense of safety.” – John Gruber, Executive Director of the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers

“It may be time to do away with sex offender registration laws altogether. At the very least, the federal government should commission research to study the laws’ effectiveness. In the meantime, several changes should be made. States should differentiate between serious and non-serious offenders and only require registration of the most serious offenders. Next, public access to online sites should be dismantled, and registries should be kept at the local police stations. This would provide at least a minimal screening process to those seeking inquiries… Lastly, we should experiment with restorative justice models such as what has happened in Canada where sex offenders moving into a community meet with members of the community in a public forum facilitated by a trained mediator. This type of forum gives the community an opportunity to meet the offender face to face and express their concerns and for the offender to show the community that he is earnestly seeking to change his life.” – Rachel King, Professor of Law, Howard University School of Law, Washington, D.C.

“Though laudable in their intent, there is little evidence that recently enacted housing policies achieve their stated goals of reducing recidivistic sexual violence. In fact, there is little research at all evaluating the effectiveness of these policies. Furthermore, these policies are not evidence-based in their development or implementation, as they tend to capture the widely heterogeneous group of sex offenders rather than utilize risk assessment technology to identify those who pose a high danger to public safety.” – Jill S. Levenson, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Human Services, Lynn University

“I would rather have someone who has committed a sex offense be going to work every day, come home tired, have a sense of well-being that comes from having a regular paycheck and a safe home, as opposed to having a sex offender who has a lot of free time on his hands.” – Richard Hamill, President, New York State Alliance of Sex Offender Service Providers

“We’re not aware of any evidence that residency restrictions have prevented a child from being victimized.” – Carolyn Atwell-Davis, Director of Legislative Affairs, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

“Therapy works for these people. Let them be punished for their crimes, let them out and let them get on with their lives. Let them work. Let them have stable homes and families and let them live in peace. Harassing them, making them move and continually punishing them does far more harm than good. A sex offender in therapy with a job and a place to live is less of a threat than one that is constantly harassed.” – Robert Shilling, Detective, Crimes Against Children Division, Seattle, WA

There is not a shred of evidence tough laws and residency restrictions have saved one child. There is however, corroboration from the experts, that Sex Offender Registries and “safety zones” are doing nothing more than giving the public a false sense of security.

Again, I call for a National Sex Offender Policy Forum. Georgia can pave the way by holding a Georgia Sex Offender Policy Forum. These forums would be comprised of treatment providers, law enforcement, jurist, victims, offenders, and their families. With the recommendations from the forum, legislators will know what laws need to be written, or amended in order to insure the safety of our children.

Why are we all in deep denial about this problem? As long as citizens rely on uninformed politicians, the misinformed media and myths about sex offenders, all children remain at risk. We need to come to terms with our denial and seek real solutions, and we need to do it today. How many more Christopher’s, Jessica’s, Dylan’s, Megan’s, Polly’s, and Jacob’s have to die before we WAKE UP?

At the end of the day, we are all responsible; we are all involved in the safety of our families and have an investment in the outcome of this discussion.

Were I given the task of writing a fictional scenario that would demonstrate why the sex offender registries and the many associated laws aimed at sex offender management such as residency restrictions, driver's license designations, and colored license plates are counterproductive to public safety I could not script one better than the true life story of poor little six-year-old Christopher Michael Barrios, Jr. whose body was found March 16, 2007, some six days after the boy had gone missing from his trailer park home in Brunswick, Georgia.

The police have arrested a Registered Sex Offender by the name of George David Edenfield. Police also arrested this man's parents and a friend of the family for obstructing the investigation. Now, all four have been charged with murder.

This case demonstrates the inherent flaws with these mechanisms on several levels. First, the family of the boy knew that Edenfield was a sex offender and he was registered in the mobile home where he was living. The mother of the boy even states that she and the grandmother warned him that the man was a danger to him.

This demonstrates that if someone is intent on molesting, assaulting, or even murdering your child the fact that you know they are a sex offender does not allow you to protect yourself unless you make the conscious decision to take the law into your hands before hand. This is why the registries and other mechanisms promote vigilantism. Constant fear of being the victim of such vigilante crimes is something that weighs heavily on registered sex offenders minds and puts them at greater risk of recidivism.

Second, my contention is that this entire family was pushed to the breaking limit by these mechanisms. The emotional tolls of constant public ridicule combined with the fact that they had been forced to move from their previous residence pushed them to the point that they no longer had anything to lose. In fact, the family was facing the possibility of another forced move due to another new law making it illegal for any registered sex offender to live within 1000 feet of a bus stop.

This death is a tragedy, and I predicted that this would happen over a year ago when I helped to convince the Kansas legislature that similar residence restrictions in Kansas would be counterproductive to public safety. I believe that the Edenfield case is simply a sign of what is yet to come as long as these laws remain in place.

My biggest fear is that some within this group of reportedly over 600,000 people living in our communities will become frustrated to the point that they will choose to lash out at our society in the manner that Joe Duncan did only on a much larger scale. I hope it won't get to the point that we have suicide bombers walking into our schools to make a point.

It is baffling to me that even in light of the Edenfield case lawmakers are already calling for even tougher laws when clearly those in place are proving to be counterproductive to public safety.

Posted by: ZMan, Atlanta, Georgia | Mar 21, 2007 11:04:32 PM

Sorry, the above was from my log and various users.


Posted by: ZMan, Atlanta, Georgia | Mar 21, 2007 11:14:17 PM

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