Monday, May 01, 2006

The ACLU gets involved

ACLU to challenge sex-offender ordinance in Taylors Falls

The board of the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota voted unanimously Saturday to challenge a new ordinance in Taylors Falls that severely restricts where sex offenders can live.

Speaking on behalf of the board, director Chuck Samuelson said the restrictions are so severe that they basically prohibit any Level 3 sex offender from living in the town.

"It's not right," he said, adding that a convicted and released sex offender would be prohibited from living within so many feet of a school, park, church, day care or bus stop. "It is our sense that as a society we may have swung a little too far in this direction." Laws that overly restrict where released inmates can live could prevent them from registering as sex offenders in the first place, he said.

The ACLU will write a letter to Taylors Falls officials asking them to rescind the law. It will also contact the state public defender's office to see whether any Minnesota sex offender was forced to move to a different town because of the new ordinance.

"If indeed there is someone ... then we will sue to get the law declared unconstitutional," Samuelson said.

As a result of high-profile cases such as the one involving the accused killer of Dru Sjodin, more towns and states are creating laws that restrict the movement of convicted sex offenders.

Twelve years ago, Minnesota created a sex offender program and began civilly committing its most dangerous sexual offenders to mental institutions. There are now 180 people at a treatment center in Moose Lake and about 200 in the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter.

Restrictive residency laws have also passed in Wyoming, Minn., in Iowa and 12 other states. A proposed ordinance in Maplewood was recently defeated.

This could be interesting to watch.


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