PA rep Tom Mehaffe stumps for 5000 foot sex offender restrictions

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By Theresa Robertson and Dana Mace . . . On June 6th, Representative Tom Mehaffie, R- Lower Swatara Township, wrote an article in Press & Journal attempting to rally support for the need of residency restrictions in Pennsylvania. He indicated he will be proposing legislation that “would prohibit Megan’s Law registrants from residing within 5,000 feet of any public school, private school, parochial school or preschool.” PARSOL reached out to Rep. Mehaffie via phone and email to invite him to the table to discuss the content of the article.   Rep Mehaffie introduced HB 2507 on June 18, 2018. The bill would amend Subchapter H of Act 10, restricting anyone whose offense occurred on or after December 20, 2012 from living within 5,000 feet of schools and childcare centers.

In Pennsylvania, local jurisdiction residency restrictions have been deemed “invalid and unenforceable” by the U.S. District Court for the Western District in Fross v. Allegheny County (2009).This ruling was upheld in 2011 by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.   Importantly, residency restrictions have been found to contribute to conditions that deter successful community re-entry (Levenson, Ackerman, Socia, & Harris, 2013), and they do not reduce sexual recidivism (Duwe, Donnay, & Tewksbury, 2008). In fact, a research brief authored by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking (2015) concluded:

…the evidence is fairly clear that residency restrictions are not effective. In fact, the research suggests that residence restrictions may actually increase offender risk by undermining offender stability and the ability of the offender to obtain housing, work, and family support.   There is nothing to suggest this policy should be used at this time.

PARSOL is committed to contributing to the prevention of child sexual abuse by advocating for sexual offense laws that are effective in increasing public safety.   We encourage all to write or email Rep. Mehaffie’s office to let him know that residence restrictions for individuals who have committed sexual offenses will not protect our children or the public and urge him to consider examining the current research on residence restrictions before introducing the bill he mentioned in his article. The research is clear. Residence restrictions will NOT offer protections to our children or our communities and may actually diminish public safety!

State Rep. Tom Mehaffie, R-Lower Swatara Township, represents the 106th House District. Reach him at 717-534-1323 or tmehaffie@pahousegop.com.

Theresa and Dana are members of PARSOL, NARSOL’s Pennsylvania advocacy organization.

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