Versions of this piece, in letter form, were sent to Commissioner Tobia of Brevard County, Florida, and to Dave Berman, an editor and writer of this piece in Florida Today.
By Sandy . . . John Tobia, County Commissioner in Brevard County, Florida, is proposing that the county levy additional 1000-foot restrictions on those on Florida’s sexual offense registry, adding “businesses that cater to youth” to schools, day care facilities, parks, and playgrounds. The proposal is presented as an option for those business owners to opt in or not. Upon examination, it is clear that this proposal does not include a very important dimension, that being the likelihood of this restriction resulting in enhanced public safety and enhanced safety for children.
A look at the research shows that residency and other restrictions that shut off parts of a town or city to persons required to register have no benefit to public safety. There are no statistics, no studies, no reports, and no evidence supporting the theory that restrictions limiting where registrants may live, work, or be offer protection to children or the public at large. Several significant studies show this.
According to the U.S. Justice Department Study published in July, 2015:
“[T]he evidence is fairly clear that residence 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.” https://www.smart.gov/SOMAPI/sec1/ch8_strategies.html (last main section)
Especially significant for Florida is this part of that report: “In a study of sex offenders subject to residence restrictions in Florida (n = 165), researchers found no significant difference in the distance recidivists (defined as a new sex crime rearrest) and nonrecidivists lived in proximity to schools and daycare centers (Zandbergen, Levenson & Hart, 2010).
This is a layman’s piece, but it encapsulates this issue extremely well. https://www.capegazette.com/node/60014
The reason that limiting former sexual offenders’ access to potential targets is futile is simple. Children’s sexual abusers are not those already punished and now tracked for having committed a sexual crime. Children’s sexual abusers are those who have never been arrested or convicted for such offenses. They are those close to the children in their everyday lives, their family members, their peers, and their authority figures. A chart that encapsulates the findings of an FBI report shows this.
In spite of all of this, if no harm were done, one could still say, “Why not?” But harm is done. Florida of all places knows the results of overly-stringent restrictions as to where registrants may live.
This proposed law, even though opting in is up to each business, will create new thousand-foot areas in which those on the registry may not live or work. Registrants with jobs inside of those areas will lose their jobs. Registrants living within those areas will lose their homes. The result will be more homeless, unemployed individuals in Brevard County than there already are. While no studies support the use of these restrictions, may studies find that the consequences to such restrictions impede rehabilitation and result in conditions that create a less safe society. In addition to those findings documented in the Justice Dept. study cited above, these document it further: https://lawdigitalcommons.bc.edu/jlsj/vol36/iss2/5/ ; https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0887403413512326 (Florida specific); https://www.npr.org/2014/10/23/358354377/aclu-challenges-miami-law-on-behalf-of-homeless-sex-offenders (Florida specific)
Those proposing and supporting this latest attempt to further limit the freedom of Brevard County’s registered citizens are not acting in the best interest of Brevard County or any of its citizens.
Sandy, a NARSOL board member, is communications director for NARSOL, editor-in-chief of the Digest, and a writer for the Digest and the NARSOL website. Additionally, she participates in updating and managing the website and assisting with a variety of organizational tasks.