Friday, June 02, 2006

Good intentions lead to bad law: Residency restrictions boost number of unsupervised, homeless sex offenders

Parole offices in several Texas cities may need to invest in some in-office bunks if California's experience shows what's ahead. New local laws restricting where sex offenders can live have left some parolees literally stranded with no place to sleep, apparently, but their parole officer's cubicle.

CrimProf blog reports that some CA county officials must house registerd sex offenders in local parole offices because of so many restrictions on where they can live. Meanwhile, in Texas, municipalities are establishing similar residency restrictions, inviting the same problems facing California - too many offenders with nowhere to go. Reported the Dallas Morning News ("Critics question laws on offenders," June 2):
The stricter ordinances could cause sex offenders to go underground and avoid registering, some say, making it more difficult for cities to track the offenders.

"People are going to live someplace," said Ruth Epstein, who monitors sex legislation for the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas. "If they can't live someplace legally, they'll live illegally.

"The biggest danger to our youth is that they will not be protected because the predators are around, but you can't find them," Ms. Epstein said.

State law prohibits certain sex offenders on probation or parole from living within 1,000 feet of schools and other places where children gather.

Cities are expanding that law to cover offenders who are no longer being supervised.

The broader ordinances essentially prohibit some offenders from living in about three-quarters of Carrollton and about half of Arlington.

Here's a great example of tuff-on-crime overkill leading to unintended consequences that are worse than those they're designed to prevent - these laws make it LESS likely sex offenders will abide by reporting restrictions, reducing whatever positive impact registration requirements might have. Urban residency restrictions might penalize rural communities more, said one expert, moving sex offenders to smaller communities that don't have a large enough police force to provide adequate protection. Reported the News:

About 15 states restrict where sex offenders can live, said Scott Matson, research associate for the Center for Sex Offender Management, a Maryland nonprofit group funded by the U.S. Justice Department.

Although his group doesn't take a position on the laws, Mr. Matson said some organizations have raised concerns about legislation that pushes offenders to rural parts of states, where there are smaller police forces to monitor offenders and less available treatment.

"While the overall intent is a good one, there are repercussions of doing such a thing," he said.

Ms. Epstein said that as cities pass tougher restrictions, sex offenders will be less likely to have contact with their family members and places that can help in their rehabilitation.

State Sen. Florence Shapiro said any unintended consequences should be handled by passing more laws with higher criminal penalties for failing to comply with sex offender reporting. But that's not going to work - if offenders literally have nowhere to sleep but the floor of the parole office, the law has placed them in an untenable circumstance. To punish them more because the Legislature passed a silly, unworkable law just isn't right. And it's unrealistic. The state can't enforce restrictions on sex offenders already in place, so the only offenders affected will be the ones who choose to comply, i.e., the ones who are trying to change their lives and behave, anyway. Others will simply abscond, and they're the ones officials should worry about.

These new laws virtually guarantee more offenders will quit registering so they can find a place to live. Will that make anyone safer?

Once again, this is an instance where good intentions matter less when writing laws than good design.


J. T. Drake said...

State Sen. Shapiro's solution is so typical of our elected reps. - let's make the situation better by making it worse. God help us all.


Anonymous said...

I was just discussing this issue today with some friends.

It is, in theory, great that there is a sex offender registry. However it in reality is basically useless. Every type of offender you can think of is included. Prostitutes, he said she said cases, statutory rape.

I don't really care about those. I want to know only about stranger rape and child sex abuse.
And a sure fire cure to that issue would be the electric chair televised during prime time

Of course it's no wonder that after the liberal controlled (at the time) Supreme Court OKed computer generated child porn (definitely what the Founding Fathers intended with the first amendment)a state as liberally perverted as California would suddenly have so many sex offenders that they can't house them all. Guess you reap what you sew.

Anonymous said...

sow, sorry about that

Anonymous said...

Welcome to the abrogation of yet another Constitutional limitation of government: the prohibition against "outlawry" (bills of attainder) is no more.

Once again, no amendment to the Constitution is required, just activist legislators and judges hopping onto the political bandwagon de jour.

Anonymous said...

Here's the link to a recent NPR story on the non-predatory sex offenders celtictexan mentions....

Anonymous said...

What everyone seems to be missing is that the majority of these people on the registry have FAMILIES... so banishing the registrants is also banishing their FAMILIES -including- thier INNOCENT CHILDREN.

But wait! Wasn't all of this to "protect the children"??? Or do the children of registrants not deserve housing? Or are they autmomatically dehumanized and demonized due to their familial relationship to the registrant (sins of the father extend and tarnish the child)? As it stands, the answer is SHAMEFULLY "yes" if we are really going to be honest.

I want every person who demands that every registrant be banished to look into the eyes of the 3 year old whose daddy was falsely accused and tell her that she is human scum and doesn't deserve any rights - no housing, no food (can't buy it if one can't work & pay for it), no civil rights, and that she deserves to be hounded and demonized. Or do you just have the stomach for spewing venom and vitriol when it is aimed at an adult from far away?

The other thing EVERYONE is missing is that 96% of all sex offenses are committed by someone who is NOT on the registry.

So, making more laws restricting those who were once convicted of a sex crime (which includes even more ridiculous things than simple statutory rape: putting Neosporing on your child's armpit, peeing off the side of your fishing boat at 4 am with no one around, taking a photo of a 1 year-old *INFANT* for your personal photo album, LITTLE KIDS playing "doctor" and on and on) is totally missing the point!

ALL of these laws, including the extra-useless residency restriction (read: BANISHMENT) laws are making ALL of us less safe.

Must more prudent would be to establish treatment centers for those who are having troubling thoughts BEFORE THEY OFFEND. This current public policy direction of ONLY dealing with this issue *after the fact* is asinine and wasteful of public resources.

These laws put me and my family at risk because law enforcement is so busy going from door to door to check on the tree-pissers and the one-time diddlers that the meth lab down the street could blow our entire block up... but sorry! Don't have time to bust the meth-makers, gotta go get those dastardly 19 year-olds who are corruping their 17 year-old girlfriends, those Johns who are paying prostitutes, can't bother with the crack dealers! Must go make sure every registrant (and their FAMILIES) are completely run out of town - can't have them around us GOOD folks (who are the ones are the most likely to molest their children).

These policies are total folly and will be looked upon very poorly by those in the future. I, for one, find it disgusting that so many would jump on the band wagon with so little thought - reminiscent of Nazi Germany. "First they came for the Jews, but I wasn't a Jew, so I said nothing. Then they came for the trade unionists, but I wasn't a trade unionist, so I said nothing... then they came for me, but there was no one to speak up because there was no one left." Rev. M. Niemoiller, Dachau

If this is happening with the sex offenders (which I hope you all are _getting_ that are not all drooling maniacs hiding behind bushes), now there are registries for arsonists (IL), meth makers, spousal abusers - who do you think will be next?

Did any of you exit high school with your virginity intact? Uh-oh!!! In Texas that is a SEX OFFENSE!

Don't look now, but they're trying to eliminate the statute of limitations... that means that ANY girlfriend from ANY time in your life can come back AT ANY TIME and say that the time you made out in the back of your car (in high school) she didn't really want to... guess what? That means YOU molested HER. And you know what that makes you?


Maybe you should just start looking into finding somewhere else to live away from all the rest of us "Good" people.

Anonymous said...

My family has been completely pulled apart. My husband (a falsely accused and convicted sex offender) currently lives in a different residence to protect our daughter and myself. Yes, I said FALSELY accused. To put it as briefly as I can, it was me who accused him of molesting our daughter only to find out later who the true sex offender was. I tried desperately to get the judge/parole board to listen to truth and drop the charges against my husband (once the charges were filed - by Child Protective Services - it became the state of Texas verses my husband). To this day, the man who molested our daughter is free to live where ever he chooses without fear of being found out on the National Sex Offender Registry. So many years have passed now, and I have no idea where he is located (Oh yes, I do check the internet from time to time to see if HIS picture has made it to the SOR. Think I wouldn't like to FIND HIM???!!! Just another angel to show how the SOR does INDEED stir up ALL KINDS of feelings of wanting to take the law into you own hands...

Anonymous said...

My husband was falsely accused by a little girl of touching her leg--that's right, not even any of her "private parts". He chose to take a plea bargain rather than face 80 years in prison. After he was placed on probation, new laws were passed and made retroactive so he is now on the sex offender registry. We were ministers so we lost our ministry, had to send away our own child. Since we live in Georgia, where they have just passed a law where he can't live closer than 1000 feet to a bus stop, which are everywhere, we are trying to desperately to find a place to live in less than 2 weeks. Even though I haven't been convicted of anything, I feel like a criminal, too. I feel like David in the Bible being chased from cave to cave. I only pray that eventually people will come to their senses and realize that children do lie. All you have to do to be accused anymore is to make a child angry. We are senior citizens--I never thought we would live out our golden years trying to find even the worst place to live. Thanks for letting me talk--nobody really wants to listen because they already know it all.

Anonymous said...

To all those in Georgia and the new laws passed --I am sorry to say that Ga legislators did not do their homework. I am hoping every moment that something is accomplished by the lawsuit filed. I live in Bulloch County --smaller city --the board of education says there are not designated bus stops and yet you can not get any address approved for a registered offender- hopeful people will get educated and realize there are several types of offenders and the ones suffering are not a threat to your child -those that are a threat really dont care about restrictions. People please wake up and see reality

Anonymous said...

please check your states legal age of consent. in many states the legal age of consent is 16 with a five year maximum age difference. Many teenagers get abortions because they think the older father will go to prison because she is underage. THIS IS SIMPLY NOT TRUE. DO NOT BEILIVE THIS URBAN LEGEND MYTH!!!!!!!!! I know of NO ONE who ever went to prison for having a baby with an underage girl. AGAIN, DO NOT BEILIVE THE MYTHS THAT YOU HEAR!!!!!! Even if you did go to prison for this, don't you think that saving an unborn baby's life is worth it?!!!


ameeker said...

On December 1st there will be a rally at the Ohio statehouse against HB 10, which will make all low-risk offenders be placed in a higher-risk category.

ameeker said...
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