Of “sex offender” residence restrictions and other foolish things

By Sandy . . . How many times have we seen it happen. There have been too many to count, going back years, among them Connecticut, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, and more recently Joliet, Illinois.

Now there is Lakeside, California: “Neighbors angry to find five sex offenders secretly placed in their Lakeside neighborhood.”

The plot is virtually always the same. People living in a community become aware that an individual or a group of individuals listed on their state’s sexual offender registry are living in their neighborhood.

They are furious; they are indignant; the purity and sanctity of their world has been sullied; their children are in imminent danger of harm; they demand answers; they want action. In some cases, they protest with signs and gatherings and sometimes threats of violence. Often the press piles on, as above in the Lakeside story, with hyperbole, fear tactics, and pejorative language.

The homes where the registrants are living will have been approved by the state DOC or department of paroles and pardons. In some cases, such as in Joliet and Lakewood, the homes are specifically designed for registrants, halfway houses of a sort, attempts by the state to help reduce homelessness and to give registrants a place to live to become reacclimated to the “outside” world, to have the support of those helping them and of each other, to focus on their commitments not to reoffend.

Of this Lakewood situation, Dana Simas, the California Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation press secretary, said, “Our first priority is public safety. Providing reentry services is an imperative piece to achieving reduced recidivism and ensuring that those being released from prison have resources available in their communities.”

This logic, this construction of programs that is based on empirical evidence, this concern above all for public safety, fall on deaf ears. The neighbors always demand that something be done. The level of vitriol and hatred, the words and actions amounting to vigilantism, portray NIMBYism at its best – or worst.

And there is almost always someone there willing and full of promises to “set things right” and “protect the children.”

In Joliet it is Mayor Bob O’Dekirk who, amid vows and promises to get rid of the registrants, persuaded the town council to buy property with a house within 500 feet of the offending “sex offender” property. The intent is to raze the house and create a pocket park in order to make the residence an illegal dwelling for registrants according to state law. This is still an on-going situation, one NARSOL is following closely.

In Lakeside, it is Senator Brian Jones coming to the rescue of the community with promises “. . . to change the laws that allow this to happen in the first place.”

Yesterday Illinois; today California. Where will it be tomorrow? Towns in many states are rushing to create new restrictions limiting where persons required to register may live, work, or even walk without breaking the law. They pop up like fungi, putting forth declarations of need filled with – you guessed it – hyperbole, fear tactics, and out-and-out lies.

A few states, realizing their lack of value and the very negative consequences that follow, forbid residence restrictions for registrants after a sentence is completed. In some states suits have been filed, as the ACLU/NARSOL suit in Rhode Island (see above). In some states and jurisdictions courts have found these restrictions unconstitutional under some circumstances.

These and other laws and restrictions visited upon persons with sexual crime convictions and no other category of criminal behavior are not associated with any enhanced public safety benefits, and yet they continue.

And as long as they do, so will the suits and the pushback. So will NARSOL.

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3 Thoughts to “Of “sex offender” residence restrictions and other foolish things”

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  1. nmcowboy

    Unfortunately the problem is not the registered sex offenders that they’re forcing back into prison because they have nowhere else to go it’s the people in these ladies have levels of authority to make themselves look good by getting rid of real sex offenders when they are most likely doing it and have it in their head that it is no big deal. These people think that they can cover it up by changing the focus from them to somebody else and then question after they make these laws why they’re being prosecuted and sent out of the community losing everything that they’ve ever worked for it’s because they don’t want to acknowledge that maybe they’re in the wrong and that these pocket Parks small Community Center for Children can go so that they can say oh he’s offenders are living too close. The United States doesn’t want to stop this they just want to encourage it because it makes their politicians look good but they’re actually doing something but most likely they’re the problem. We need to focus on making it harder for people to find out information on sex offenders who are not a member of the law as they do in many European communities. Just because people think that they’re safer because they have access to the sex offender database doesn’t make them safe they end up committing crimes against these predators and then get upset when their prosecuted because the law is still going to affect them in the same way that it affected the sex offender. And I hope that no law gets passed that gives people any justice or right if we do not need to go back to the Western frontier days we need to become more Progressive or understanding more accepting or helpful because our country has fallen farther and farther away from what it stood for country that helped each other and did for it self not a country that is about finding scapegoat using them to cover up all the problems that are going on because the more we cover up what’s going on the more we are going to slowly drift toward a unnecessary Civil War or dictator over all of us and the people who have the power to make the change we’ll be the ones questioning how we ended up here. And the one that for prosecuted in sentence will be the ones knowing what happened.

  2. w

    Stop making more laws. There’s only so much progressiveness before you done progressed yourself off a cliff.

    In the beginning there was the Constitution. And it was good! So why did we need to funk it up?! The scales go this way and that way. 10 new laws against RSOs, 1 new law in their support. The net result? Still always leaning unconstitutionally against one “group” or “class” of people! How do we rebalance the system?

    Take down the registries!

    But the fear campaign and media spin is always a potent deterrent from finally getting the job done.

  3. Tim in WI

    Those forced to register are those indebted to a database maintenance program used to impose affirmative restraint and improve societal conditions. Creating servants to a machine to improve safety or merely a collective for collection sake alone? How much utility gained by opting the broadcast such on a World wide scale except to normalize the unnatural? Ah we can see now with clarity now the pitfalls of unfettered use have created enormous amounts of collateral damage, especially with respect to sovereignty. The people had no damn problem posting maps to offenders’ homes but Supreme Court Justices I’d guess are another mattsr! Perhaps the Byrne Grant folks will save the day.