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September 8, 2015

"The Pointless Banishment of Sex Offenders"

The title of this post is the headline of this New York Times editorial in today's paper.  Here are excerpts:

It’s a chilling image: the sex predator skulking in the shadows of a swing set, waiting to snatch a vulnerable child.

Over the past two decades, that scenario has led to a wave of laws around the country restricting where people convicted of sex offenses may live — in many cases, no closer than 2,500 feet from schools, playgrounds, parks or other areas where children gather. In some places, these “predator-free zones” put an entire town or county off limits, sometimes for life, even for those whose offenses had nothing to do with children.

Protecting children from sexual abuse is, of course, a paramount concern.  But there is not a single piece of evidence that these laws actually do that.  For one thing, the vast majority of child sexual abuse is committed not by strangers but by acquaintances or relatives. And residency laws drive tens of thousands of people to the fringes of society, forcing them to live in motels, out of cars or under bridges.  The laws apply to many and sometimes all sex offenders, regardless of whether they were convicted for molesting a child or for public urination.

Lately, judges have been pushing back.  So far in 2015, state supreme courts in California, Massachusetts and New York have struck down residency laws....  The United States Supreme Court has not yet weighed in on residency restrictions, although a 2003 ruling upholding mandatory registration for sex offenders suggested that such laws may violate the Constitution.

It is understandable to want to do everything possible to protect children from being abused.  But not all people who have been convicted of sex offenses pose a risk to children, if they pose any risk at all . Blanket residency-restriction laws disregard that reality — and the merits of an individualized approach to risk assessment — in favor of a comforting mirage of safety.

September 8, 2015 at 05:33 PM | Permalink


OMG, is the world finally waking up to the fact that not all those convicted of a "sex offense" are sex offenders?
Could it be that laws put into effect decades ago, were wrong? Is it possible that maybe, just maybe, those laws are, in fact, unconstitutional?
Now if only the powers that be would admit their mistakes and make the necessary corrections instead of being chicken-sh-- and putting them on the back burner every time the US Sentencing Commission looks at priorities for the upcoming year.

Posted by: kat | Sep 8, 2015 6:34:04 PM

My sentiments completely. Takes a moment of unfounded hysteria to enact these laws but decades and countless ruined lives, to admit their mistakes and illegality.

Posted by: ernie | Sep 8, 2015 7:18:41 PM

Finally! Someone is getting it right!!!

Posted by: Book38 | Sep 8, 2015 7:24:39 PM

Let's see:

What will pandering politicians, rent-seeking law enforcement and their hangers-on, and lying Judges use to instill fear in the mindless masses?

Oh yeah, the government has a compelling interest - to continue lying and enact unconstitutional Jim Crow laws.

American exceptionalism at its finest!

After all, John Roberts controls the docket and he thinks that he will never be called on it for lying to the USSC as a Justice Department hack in Smith vs. Doe. Yeah, keep telling that lie and polishing that turd, you only think you are fooling the people and protecting your legacy. Best legal minds my b--t.

Posted by: albeed | Sep 8, 2015 7:40:28 PM

The lawyer is so stupid. Most child molesters live in the house of the child or are invited, frequent guests. It is often the step father, and the mother will not leave the comfort from his money, making the mother a pimp in fact. The child has to be removed for safety. When I say, most, Oprah says, 90%.


Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 8, 2015 8:44:20 PM

Thank the vile feminist lawyer and its male running dog for nearly all child molestations. They destroyed the patriarchal family.

Even if the biological father is a career criminal, devoid of any shred of morality, the chance of his molesting his own children is a tenth that of a stepfather.

I propose residency restrictions on the vile feminist lawyers and their male running dogs. Hunt them. Try them. Sentence them to camps. These would be hellish indeed, since they would contain only lawyers and appellate judges.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 8, 2015 8:49:40 PM

My son is a registered sex offender due to an isolated incident of downloading child porn which had been long deleted and no more obtained when federal agents broke down his door. He subsequently served 5 years which the judge was forced to administer due to a 5-25 mandate. He has to go to sex-offender group containing everyone from a man who raped his 3 daughters to a man who had sex with a 17 year old when he was 19 whom he's now married to! My son needs permission to go hiking or to a food festival which affects every relationship he has because there's no spontaneity allowed. He's working on a goat farm. I hope probation never finds out that little goats are kids!!!!!

Posted by: carolyn sage | Sep 9, 2015 6:20:34 AM


Someone will have to point out to federal agents that little goats are "kids" as they are not as bright as they think they are. Years of eating at the altar (trough) of government apologia makes them ever dumber.

I am sure however that the idiot SWAT team had a lot of fun breaking down the door and causing maximum damage and fear! Can someone explain to me how this is any different than the brown shirts of the 1930's? Any "tough on crime" propagandists care to differentiate?

Posted by: albeed | Sep 9, 2015 7:40:32 AM

What happens if several former sex offenders who are corralled in a certain location decide to band together to form a radical self-defense group like the Black Panthers did fifty years ago that would engage in pitched battles with police or settle scores with unscrupulous prosecutors and politicians who imposed these laws on them? We have had isolated cases of individual former sex offenders getting even with restrictive post-sentencing laws. In Savannah, GA, earlier this year, police arrested a former sex offender at a mobile home park who made a bomb threat against the local police station and sex offender registry. Around two years ago, we had a former offender in Michigan who, while in court, made a death threat against the judge and prosecutor.

My point is that these petty laws have the potential of needlessly endangering law enforcement personnel by provoking an embittered former sex offender into wanting to take matters into his or her own hands. That these laws have not so far endangered more law enforcement officials and politicians is simply luck.

Posted by: william r. delzell | Sep 9, 2015 9:16:23 AM

I hope somebody will respond either positively or negatively to my comment above. Since nobody has, I hope I haven't scared people away from debating these issues.

Posted by: william r. delzell | Sep 9, 2015 8:57:19 PM

William, always appreciate your insightful comments.

Posted by: None | Sep 10, 2015 1:22:24 AM

I think others do as well, they just might not post or have moved on to more recent posts.

Posted by: None | Sep 10, 2015 1:23:13 AM

william r. delzell | Sep 9, 2015 9:16:23 AM: The "sex offender" witch hunt laws are already harming politicians, government employees, law enforcement, etc. How could they not be? The laws breed complete contempt and disrespect for those people. And not just from the people who are Registered, but from their entire families. My grown children do not respect government or law enforcement at all and view them as enemies. My children are influential, accomplished, wealthy people and they definitely have passed their values onto other people and will continue to do so.

I personally have done a great deal to damage law enforcement and their ability to harass Americans. I don't do it as a Registered Citizen. I do it anonymously, along with many other people. We have definitely harmed their budgets and their ability to harass.

We are in a war. The idiot zealots who support nanny big government and the "sex offender" witch hunt probably don't even know it. They are not so enlightened. I keep all my fighting legal but I wouldn't be upset at all if others did not. I think it would be quite appropriate actually. Zealots who support the "sex offender" witch hunt deserve everything they will get.

Posted by: FRegistryTerrorists | Sep 10, 2015 8:28:16 AM

william r. delzell. From experience, legal actions do have influence and deter, even if dismissed on first pleading. So for a few $thousand you can end the registry in a federal circuit. For a few hundred $ thousand, get your ride to the Supreme Court and end them nationally. It is more effective to stay legal.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 10, 2015 9:39:10 AM

I have characterized registries as lawyer quackery. If any one gets the funding for a lawsuit, I will gladly try to help with concepts, in this blog or more privately. Prof. Berman may give my email to any responsible licensed lawyer.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 10, 2015 2:37:54 PM

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In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB