By Jen Fifield . . . In the last couple of years, the number of sex offenders living on the streets of Milwaukee has skyrocketed, from 16 to 205. The sharp increase comes as no surprise to some. There are few places for them to live.
In October 2014, the City of Milwaukee began prohibiting violent and repeat sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of any school, day care center or park. That left just 55 addresses where offenders can legally move within the 100-square-mile city. And their living options soon will become more limited across Wisconsin. Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill in February that prohibits violent sex offenders from living within 1,500 feet of any school, day care, youth center, church or public park in the state.
Cities and states continue to enact laws that restrict where convicted sex offenders can live, applying the rules to violent offenders such as pedophiles and rapists, and, in some cases, those convicted of nonviolent sex crimes, such as indecent exposure. They are doing so despite studies that show the laws can make more offenders homeless, or make it more likely they will falsely report or not disclose where they are living. And though the laws are meant to protect children from being victimized by repeat offenders, they do not reduce the likelihood that sex offenders will be convicted again for sexual offenses, according to multiple studies, including one from the U.S. Department of Justice.
In all, 27 states have blanket rules restricting how close sex offenders can live to schools and other places where groups of children may gather, according to research by the Council of State Governments. Hundreds of cities also have restrictions, according to the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (ATSA). And many laws are becoming more restrictive — along with Wisconsin, they expanded last year in Arkansas, Montana, Oklahoma and Rhode Island.
The restrictions can make offenders’ lives less stable by severely limiting their housing options, and can push them away from family, jobs and social support — all of which make it more likely they will abuse again, according to researchers who have studied the laws, such as Kelly Socia, assistant professor of criminal justice at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell.
“If [the laws] don’t work, and they make life more difficult for sex offenders, you’re only shooting yourself in the foot,” Socia said. (Please read full article in Stateline, Pew Charitable Trusts)