By Benjamin Pierce . . . Officials in two Rock County [WI] towns want more control over where sex offenders live, but a national organization said such restrictions hinder offender rehabilitation.
The town of Johnstown and the town of Harmony have drafted ordinances regarding sex offenders.
“Those people have to stay someplace, but it would just be nice if we could have a little more control,” Harmony Town Board President Jeff Klenz said.
Sandy Rozek, who works with the National Association for Rational Sexual Offense Laws, said ordinances such as the ones proposed in Harmony and Johnstown hamper the rehabilitation of offenders. She said stability is an important part of keeping offenders from re-offending.
“The factors that are associated with successful rehabilitation for anyone coming out of prison—or a situation like that—are a place to live, security in living, access to employment and other services and family support; and residency restrictions tend to impede all of these things,” Rozek said.
Rozek’s organization works to eliminate discrimination, banishment and vigilantism against people accused or convicted of sexual offenses.
Many sex offender cases, Rozek said, involve older teen boys in relationships with underage teen girls, which is much different than the stereotype of an older male preying on children or women. Most people on the sex offender registry she has encountered are repentant, and recidivism rates are very low for most sex offenses, she said.
The conversation about creating ordinances began in the town of Harmony after town leaders learned multiple sex offenders were living in the former Pine Tree Inn at 4544 W. Highway 14, Janesville.
The facility is run by the Jessie Crawford Recovery Center, a recovery center for people with mental health and substance abuse issues.
Klenz said the current use of the facility violates the property’s original conditional-use permit, which allows the building to be run as a motel but not a recovery center.
Under the proposed town of Harmony ordinance, registered sex offenders would be prohibited from living within 1,500 feet of schools, public parks, licensed day cares, libraries, playgrounds, pools, churches and other areas frequented by children.
While state statutes restrict the residency of only a narrow category of sex offenders—those found by the courts to be sexually violent offenders—the ordinance would apply to all registered sex offenders, a much larger group.
As of Jan. 7, Wisconsin had 63 sexually violent offenders living in communities on supervised release. That’s compared to more than 250,000 registered sex offenders living in Wisconsin.