Monday, June 19, 2006

Punitive restrictions

A little honesty appears in an article in "The News-Press" (SW Florida), Florida sex offenders hard to track, noting that many of these measures are in fact punitive:

... Sex offenders can stay off the registry if they don't run afoul of the law or have any other reason to be checked. And because of punitive restrictions facing registered sex offenders, there are numerous reasons to avoid getting on the list. ...

At the same time, there has been an onslaught of restrictions on where registered sex offenders can live, work or even swim.

Ziesmer's attorney, assistant public defender Bill Miskovich, described onerous registry requirements. Sex offenders must report moves in person to local law enforcement and to the Department of Motor Vehicles to change their licenses, Miskovich said.

Some have a hard time paying the $15.25 it costs to get a new license or can't afford to miss work to stand in line at the DMV.

"One guy was selling his plasma to get money for a license," Miskovich said.

Although some "want to go under the radar" he said, others just fall prey to the usual hassles of moving and forget to re-register, he said.

On June 1, there were 37,936 sexual offenders and predators on the Florida registry. Of those, about 500 are dead and 10,000 are imprisoned or deported. Of the rest, 1,397 do not have a verified current address and are listed as "absconded." ...

Officer Ryan Stimpert, sex offender coordinator of the City of Sarasota Police Department, estimates 5 percent to 10 percent of sex offenders don't comply with registration. ...

Others question whether the sex offender registry is a useful tool and if punitive laws associated with registration may discourage compliance.

"As soon as they register, they have no place to live. It's difficult to find a job. They can't work anywhere children congregate, which eliminates minimum-wage jobs," said Neil McLoughlin, assistant deputy public defender in Lee County.

"Registration is not going to prevent (an offender) from reoffending," said Scott Matson, with the nonprofit Center for Sex Offender Management in Silver Spring, Md.

And, Matson said, children are at greater risk of abuse from family and church members than from strangers.

The public would be better protected if resources went to keep tabs on the 10 percent of sex offenders who are truly dangerous, Matson said, instead of trying to track every offender. ...

Interesting. 5 to 10% non-compliance. In an earlier posting on this blog it was noted that Linn County, Iowa, used to have about a 10% non-compliance rate. Then they passed a 2000-foot blanket non-residence zone law. Now Linn County Sheriff Don Zeller reports 45 to 50% non-compliance.

But this isn't stopping many from trying to be "more punitive than thou."

Update: Somebody needs to tell the Boston-area police chiefs:

Chiefs applaud bylaw barring offenders

Local police chiefs say they will keep a close eye on a recent proposal in Marlborough geared at barring certain sex offenders from living within 2,500 feet of schools, parks or playgrounds.

If it passes, they might look to follow suit.

"Anything we can do to protect children, I am for it," Westborough Chief Alan Gordon said.

Hope Chief Gordon is up to the apparently intellectually daunting task of figuring out that these laws actually reduce, not increase, childrens' safety.


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