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November 30, 2014

Growing awareness of the limited efficacy of local sex offender residency restrictions

This new Wall Street Journal article highlights the new awareness of enduring problems with sex offender residency restrictions.  The lengthy piece is headlined "Cities and Towns Scaling Back Limits on Sex Offenders: Officials Say Buffer Zones Don’t Prevent Repeat Offenses and Make Predators Harder to Track," and here are excerpts:

When Palm Beach County, Fla., was sued earlier this year over its housing restrictions for registered sex offenders, its attorneys took an unusual approach: They suggested the county relax its law.

The county’s commissioners — prompted largely by the lawsuit brought by a sex offender who claimed the limits rendered him homeless — voted in July to let such offenders legally live closer to schools, day-care centers and other places with concentrations of children. “We realized the law was costing the taxpayers money [for services for the homeless] and was causing more problems than it was solving,” said county attorney Denise Nieman.

In the mid-1990s, states and cities began barring sex offenders from living within certain distances of schools, playgrounds and parks. The rationale: to prevent the horrible crimes sometimes committed by offenders after their release. In October, for instance, officials charged sex offender Darren Deon Vann with murdering two women in Indiana. Mr. Vann, who is suspected of killing several others, pleaded not guilty.

Now, a growing number of communities are rejecting or scaling back such limits — out of concern that they don’t prevent repeat offenses, and, in some instances, may make sex offenders harder to track....

A 2013 Justice Department study that examined Michigan’s and Missouri’s statewide restrictions showed they “had little effect on recidivism.” Other studies have found the vast majority of sex-offense cases involving children are committed not by strangers but by family members or others with established connections to the victims, such as coaches or teachers.

About 30 states and thousands of cities and towns have laws restricting where sex offenders can live, while others are adding them. In March, a 1,000-foot buffer from parks took effect in San Antonio. In July, Milwaukee passed a law banning sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a variety of places where children gather....

Critics, however, say such moves do little more than score lawmakers political points and give an area’s residents a false sense of security. Some argue they can make communities less safe, by making it hard for offenders to find stable housing.

David Prater, district attorney of the county that encompasses Oklahoma City, said he and other state prosecutors have tried to get the state to relax its 2,000-foot buffer, to no avail. “No politician wants to be labeled the guy who lessens restrictions on sex offenders,” he said....

Some smaller towns are chucking restrictions, partly in the name of public safety. De Pere, Wis., a town of 23,000 south of Green Bay, tossed out its 500-foot buffer last year after reviewing data on its effectiveness, said several council members. The issue was reopened by some townspeople several months ago ,when a convicted sex offender moved across the street from a school for children with special needs. But the council didn’t budge. “You track where they live, you check in on them, but you let them live at home, where they’re comfortable and stable,” said Scott Crevier, a DePere city councilman. “I feel we’re actually safer than a lot of other towns in the state that have them.”

November 30, 2014 at 09:41 PM | Permalink


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"Other studies have found the vast majority of sex-offense cases involving children are committed not by strangers but by family members or others with established connections to the victims, such as coaches or teachers."

Studies, it should be noted, that preexisted sex offender restrictions by decades. Please. These restrictions were designed to do nothing but placate the mouth foamers. Now that they are not foaming so much, they can be relaxed.

Posted by: Daniel | Nov 30, 2014 11:10:28 PM

Let's see, the word restriction can be (and often is) considered as an additional form of punishment, i.e., probation/parole, especially when it applies to where one can live and travel. Since these laws apply to anyone on a registry and are mostly applicable after the fact, can anyone explain to me how they are not in violation of the "ex post facto clause" of the Constitution. Please, do not try to BS me with the civil vs. criminal argument. Words have meaning!

All residency restrictions (and travel restrictions) should be abolished as they violate the Constitution, not only that they are ineffective, but do not meet any reasonable test demonstrating the minimal means of meeting governmental "interest", if that interest is only safety. If that interest is a step to means of tyranny, well that would be different.

Posted by: albeed | Dec 1, 2014 8:14:04 AM

Restricting and concentrating sex offenders into certain parts of a city like Miami's freeway underpasses could create a breading ground for sex offenders to band together to form radical self-defense groups like the Black Panthers did almost fifty years ago. They might decide they have nothing to lose by arming themselves and resisting their parole officers and other law enforcement personnel. What's amazing about this possible scenario as that most former sex offenders who act out against law enforcement and other authority figures do so as individuals instead of as collective groups thus far.

Posted by: william r. delzell | Dec 1, 2014 9:25:09 AM

what I really like is one of the main reasons the gov't fuckups on the high court in 2002 allowed the squeakere 5-4 vote that made the illegal registry legal was because "It is not like probation/parole'

Now of course thinks for over 12 years of add-on's it is in fact and law an illegal retro active lifetime probation/parole.

sorry I don't need another court to tell me it's illegal. Sorry if the highest court in the land says it's legal BECAUSE YOUR NOT doing "x" "y" and "z" and then your ass walks out of court and passes laws that REQUIRE "x" "y" and "z" on pain of PRISON for failure. YOUR now the fucking criminal. At that point based on the 1940's neurambug trials. Anyone involved in supported ad implementing them are now criminals who can be dealth with as the American public sees fit!

Posted by: rodsmith | Dec 1, 2014 2:34:21 PM

Sex offender registration/restrictions are a Trojan horse! It looks like a perfect gift from politicians and police, but it is a trick that is going to destroy the republic! These laws don't actually accomplish anything than to punish people who have already been sentenced in a collective, gestapo - like fashion. For example, someone is now arrested for going to a library or taking their own kids to a park; they have not committed an actual crime, but we prevent them from living like citizens presuming them guilty of future crimes that have not happened yet. All in the name of "public safety"...just like the internment of Japanese Americans 70 years ago...i bet that saved 'just 1 child' too. The kicker is that sex offenders, because the term is so broad and generic, have one of the lowest reoffense rates of all criminals...19 out of 20 don't reoffend according to nearly all studies. The 5% or less that do are usually violent or actual pedophiles.
These laws are a mix of great politics and horrible policy. The Democrats love having a victim class to pander to and make sure that no one dare say that there's a difference between statutory rape and 'legitimate' raped we need to protect a teenage girl's right to decide to have an abortion even though she can't make the decision to engage in sex...that could haunt her forever! The Republicans love having a criminal class to punish in perpetuity. And the one thing both parties can agree on is that they don't want to be the ones that softened restrictions on sex offenders.
The public knows there's a difference between a dumb old boy and a dirty old man, but we dare not deviate from this one size fits all system? Still? The courts uphold sex offender registration saying it's not a punishment but a regulation. They are wildly popular though because everyone knows they're a punishment. If you can't hate a sex offender, then you must be one of them! Aristotle once said that,"The law must be reason without passion." Reason is the last word I would use to describe our sex offender system, but when will the public wake up and realize that many of these crimes don't have victims in the stereotypical sense and that many of the offenders are not the stereotype either. Most will never commit a sex crime again but have to line up for another round of punishment. ..er...civil regulations every time someone labeled a sex offender commits another crime anywhere in the country; they don't even gave to be a registered sex offender either - Jerry Sandusky wasn't one before he got caught. The average sex offender isn't a pedophile or predator, but some guy who did something stupid when he was younger and now he and his family and his own children have to suffer for it indefinitely. There's a reason that officers pretend to be 14 or 15 when they do stings to try to catch college boys--they know that a young guy will think like a young guy and not have the same frame of reference as a young girl. For example, when that guy was in high school, he would have thought it would have been awesome to hook up with a college girl. Especially when the 'girl' on the other side of the computer is saying that she's more sexually experienced than he is and loves to hook up. Who was the actual victim here? A girl that didn't even exist? The taxpayers who must now monitor and pay for prison for this guy for the next 25 years? The offender ' s own children 10 years later when he's married and settled down who now can't carve a pumpkin for trick or treat and other kids bully and ostracize because of their father's status?
There are some truly dangerous pricks out there, but the sex offender registry usually does nothing more than throw hay on the needlestack. As for the so-called 'right' for people to be informed, that is not to be found in any constitution or natural law. What you feel is your right to be informed is a requirement on another to provide information without delay. Thus makes it illegal to grow a mustache or get a tattoo without taking a day off work to go update registration. With that 'information' the general public is able to extrapolate just enough to actually make themselves more ignorant. The names and pictures keep cluttering the websites and prisons. Zero tolerance utopia and none of them getting any younger. That young man who committed statutory rape 20 years ago who couldn't grow facial hair at the time is now full of gray hair and you think he's into teenage girls or worse tonight when you look him up. Know the difference between legitimate rape and statutory rape? :statutory rape gets you thrown in prison and legitimate rape happens to you inside. Victims should have some say in this, if they choose, years later. People should get individual justice and not be held to broad categories of everyone suffers because that guy's victim is scarred for life. But don't worry, no one, especially not politicians, have the courage to roll this Trojan horse out of the legal code and the precedent set by these preemptive strike laws will be revealed in time. Be careful what you wish for and don't be too quick to demand 19 innocent men be punished so that 1 guilty man won't go free.

Posted by: mike | Dec 2, 2014 7:02:00 PM


I agree with your positions. here's one that I take with respect to the stupidity of our lawmakers, prosecutors, law enforcement and especially judges (hear that you baboons on the SCOTUS).

Whenever you make any normal human activity (travel, residency, 2nd amendment, etc.) a crime for a class of citizens who are no longer under any "punishment or control" by the state and that same activity is considered a basic right for all other people, you are nothing but a fascist b-st--d, no matter what self-deceiving mental gymnastics you spout under guise of "law".

Anyone who says that the first person to invoke "Godwin's Law" loses the argument is an idiot.

Posted by: albeed | Dec 3, 2014 7:53:22 AM

lol i'm with you Albeed I also think that at that point since they are legally now traitors to their oath to uphold the constitution and laws of this country. They can now be removed however it needs to be done.

Posted by: rodsmith | Dec 3, 2014 8:02:17 PM

Has anyone ever heard any of the criminal regimes that have "residency restrictions" attempt to rationalize why their "restrictions" do not include all people who have committed crimes that have harmed other people? Has any supporter of these un-American "restrictions" tried to rationalize that? I haven't seen it.

It is pretty amazing that people who have shot children in schools are not included in these "restrictions". It is also pretty amazing that a person can get drunk and run over a bunch of children in a school zone and those people are also not included in these "restrictions". People who have gotten angry at people who have crossed their yard and shot them are also not included. People who have run meth houses that have blown up and burned to the ground are not included.

There are probably a thousand examples of people who should be included but aren't. It is complete proof that these "residency restrictions" witch hunt is not really about public safety but is instead just to make stupid, irresponsible people feel better.

Retaliate for the Sex Offender Registries today.

Posted by: FRegistryTerrorists | Dec 4, 2014 10:30:35 AM

All of these laws are based on the lie/myth that people on the registry will reoffend. Here is an excerpt from an article that I wrote for SOSEN entitled "Why are the Reconviction Rates So Important?" politicians are going to have a tough time justifying these laws. When it is pointed out that people on the registry have a re-offense rate of less than 1% I do this research and write these articles, because as a former paralegal I see the Constitutional injustice.

Why the actual re-offense rates are important pertaining to the total number of people who are already on the registry compared with the percentage of those who are then later reconvicted of a new sexually related crime. This is a simple one, the fact is that the registry and community notification laws are based on the premise that people who have been convicted of any type of sexually related crime are going to commit more. In fact, most states have within their statutes their reasoning for the laws existence and that is this high possibility for re-offense. So if it doesn’t exist than their rationale and justification for the laws evaporates and the government’s purpose for the law becomes arbitrary and capricious based on nothing more than a desire to restrict the liberties of a given group of people based on fear and bigotry.

Normally the second reason used by the government to justify the existence of the law is to help law enforcement track down people involved in new sex crimes. That naturally makes the assumption that people on the registry are the ones going to be involved in any new crimes.

So it is important that these two issues related to re-offense rate that must be dealt with. The first one is; of the people that are on the registry, what is the percentage that are involved in new sexually related crimes, and the second question is, what is the percentage of the people on the registry that are involved in a new sexually related crime in comparison to the ordinary citizen who have never been convicted of a sexually related crime? If in either case, there is a high re-offense rate for people on the registry, than the justification for the law could exist, if not than the justification evaporates.

The problem is government has done its best to hide the truth, thereby taking away the possible challenges to the laws. The legislators, suppose victim’s advocates and special interest groups that financially benefit from the myth of high re-offense rates have promoted these biased laws. But even their own studies that only look at selected groups and not the entire registry, have continually shown low reconviction rates In new sex crimes for people with prior sex crimes. Two studies have recently come to light that have actually looked at all the people on the registry. One is the Nebraska sex offender registry study completed July 31st 2013 which was actually commissioned by the Nebraska Legislature, where it shows that the re-offense rate for people on the Nebraska Registry is 6/10 of one percent. The second one was done in Ohio where they tracked 21,750 people that were on their registry for 10 years in any given year. The re-offense rate was less than 3/10 of one percent “Note: Re-offenses in one year. There are more RSO registered than shown above for this data is only for the ten years from 2000 to 2010. Ohio has had their registry since 1996. During the following four to five years, there has been an additional 5000 RSOs who have now been on the registry from 10 to 15 years and they only add about 1 re-offense a year at the most. The re-offense rates for each year after released is based form the information found in ODRC Ten-Year Recidivism Follow-Up Of 1989 Sex Offenders Releases ; By Paul Konicek Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections, Office of Policy, Bureau of Planning and Evaluation; ” at the end of the study comparing the people who did not reoffend against the people who did . They came up with the re-offense rate of 1/100 of 1% so there doesn’t seem to be a high reoffend rate for people who are on the registry as bias.government officials and special interest groups would have us believe.

for the rest of the article, you'll have to go http://sosen.org/

Posted by: Will Bassler | Dec 8, 2014 4:39:46 PM

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