Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The moral character of a Georgian on naked display here. 'Toughest' isn't justice:

If the purpose of HB 1059 was to run all the sex offenders out of Georgia, it will fail.

The law's chief sponsor, House Majority Leader Jerry Keen, R-St. Simon's Island, has said: "We want people running away from Georgia. Given the toughest laws here, we think a lot of people could move to another state... If it becomes too onerous and too inconvenient, they just may want to live somewhere else. And I don't care where, as long as it's not in Georgia."

Keen told colleagues in the Legislature that offenders unable to comply with the tough standards "will, in many cases, have to move to another state."

Will someone please tell Jerry Keen that will not be happening? His bill might look good on paper, and it might sound good to his constituents, but the Catch 22 -- make that Catch 1059 -- could theoretically put more children at risk than it protects.

On July 1, Georgia's new, more restrictive sex offender law goes into effect, unless a federal judge decides to extend to all sex offenders the same protection of an injunction issued Monday to eight who filed suit challenging the law.

One of the provisions of Keen's law: A registered sex offender's residence must not be within 1,000 feet of any child care facility, church, private or public school -- now including school bus stops -- or any area where minors congregate.

Sex offenders who can't find suitable places to work or live by July 1 have limited options: Go to jail or go underground. (My money is on few rushing to turn themselves in.)

What HB 1059 does is give the uninformed public a false sense of security, said Kyle Sandusky, a sex offender living in Marietta. "Because as a registered sex offender I can't get into a nice apartment complex or anything other than a flea bag roach infested motel," he said.

Sheriff's departments are responsible for measuring and certifying residences and registering sex offenders. From the beginning, many of them have complained the law gives sex offenders no way out. And that creates a great deal of stress.

Though 16 other states reportedly have laws similar to Georgia's new law, Georgia stands alone in restricting sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a bus stop.

This law punishes families, Sandusky said. "The families of Georgia's offenders are not guilty of any crimes," he said.

"These offenders paid their debt to society and are trying to rebuild their lives. They have families, pay taxes and contribute to society in whatever way they can," he said.

Doesn't a proverb talk about keeping one's enemies close? Because sex offenders who are child molesters can pose such a life-altering threat to children, doesn't it make sense to keep them where we can see them?

I thought Georgia was in the Bible belt. I guess it isn't any more.


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