Thursday, May 25, 2006

Iowa: A total lack of forethought

Iowa is finally figuring out that, gosh, maybe those laws weren't such a good idea after all. Fewer sex offenders registering with database:

DAVENPORT - The 2000 foot residency rule went into effect 9 months ago in Iowa - and now the Scott County Sheriff's Department says - they're starting to see two big problems. Fewer sex offenders registering with the database and a cluster of them moving into the same neighborhoods.

"I think legislators had good intentions when they made the law, I don't think they had any clue what the kickbacks would be," said Sgt. Bryce Schmidt.

He says it's now harder to keep track of offenders because more are choosing not to register.

"I've interviewed people in jail," he said. "They flat out tell me, 'I knew you had the 2000 foot law, I had no place I could live' - they just keep running as long as they can. That's the mentality." ...

And the lawmakers couldn't have figured this out beforehand? Think how much this is costing them: not only are these guys not gainfully employed, paying taxes, etc.; they're now sitting in jail, costing 15 to 25 thousand dollars a year each. And if they're running -- how likely are they to obey other laws? It would be interesting to see a recidivism study comparing registered sex offenders to unregistered sex offenders.

There are other costs too I may have mentioned months ago on this blog; I am happy to see that one jurisdiction has figured out what they have to do:

Updating maps and filing paperwork have become a huge chunk of this criminal investigator's job - and on top of that - offenders are constantly dropping by his office - all with the same question - where can i live?

That's why Scott County computer guru Ray Weiser is putting together handheld maps for sex offenders - they'll also be available to the public. The pamphlets lay out the areas on and off limits.

They're now paying a criminal investigator to update maps and file paperwork, instead of investigating crime. But they need to be really careful with those maps; the intsant a sex offender relies on them, moves in, and then is told he has to move because there's an error in the map -- they're liable for a lawsuit.

Meanwhile - Schmidt hopes lawmakers address some of the issues this law's brought about.

"There's a lot of issues that don't make sense, legislators are going to have to iron them out," he said.

The issues didn't make sense from the outset, if anybody in Iowa had applied an ounce of brainpower (okay, the units don't make sense) to the issue, which they didn't because the outcomes are so very obvious.

Legislation driven by emotion may feel good at first, real warm and fuzzy, but it carries a whoppingly costly hangover.

The maps should be ready for pick-up next week.

As they stagger into the next stage of this stupidity. The correct and obvious thing to do is the one thing the lawmakers cannot do in the climate they themselves have created. They will be forced to destroy even more civil liberties trying, ex post facto, to bolster a law that should never have been passed, much less proposed, in the first place.


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