Monday, June 26, 2006

Snake oil sales rise in Kentucky

Kentucky's overreaching new law is going to be nothing but trouble:

ERLANGER - Kentucky's new sex offender law is long and complicated, but one segment is clear:

"No registrant ... shall reside within one thousand (1,000) feet of a high school, middle school, elementary school, preschool, publicly owned playground, or licensed day-care facility."

That's the section creating the buzz.

And it will likely get louder when the law kicks in July 12. It applies to all registered sex offenders, whether convicted of a crime against an adult or a child....

The law began as House Bill 3, passed unanimously in the House and Senate in March and signed into law by Gov. Ernie Fletcher in April. Many applaud it, saying it will make communities safer. ...

But others are pessimistic about the effects the restrictions will have on offenders, communities and law enforcement. ...

Current law prohibits sex offenders on probation or parole from living within 1,000 feet of a school or licensed day care. The measurement is the shortest distance between the walls of the facility and the offender's home.

The new law applies to all sex offenders.

It also broadens the restriction to include playgrounds and measures property line to property line.

"Playground" is not defined in the statute, but the state's Office of Legal Services defines it as publicly-owned property that has items brought to it to entertain kids, such as a swing set, pool or baseball diamond.

The new law does not have a grandfather clause, so if a school, day care or playground opens within 1,000 feet of an offender's home, the offender must leave.

(I was going to say this is ripe for abuse, but read on.)

... Iles, 50, has lived in Deer Chase subdivision in Erlanger for 18 months. Residents there, several with kids, have wanted him out since he moved in - and may now get their wish.

A piece of land abutting Iles' backyard was donated to the city a few years ago for a park. Plans call for a playground. There's no timetable but when a park does open, Iles will have 90 days to move.


But the ACLU's Lutgens said people will be forced from their homes for a solution that's not effective. "There's no correlation between these crimes and where they live," Lutgens said.


That lack of correlation concerns Christie Feldman.

Feldman is the supervisor for District 7 Probation & Parole, which includes Boone, Campbell and Kenton counties. Her office registers all sex offenders in those counties and helps those on supervised release (about 80 this month) find places to live. The office is hiring more staff in July and October, expecting a flood of calls from offenders not on supervised release who need help determining where they can live.

"I don't necessarily think the idea of the law is a bad thing, but what concerns me is it may give the community a false sense of security," said Feldman. "I've never had a victim of one of these offenders call and say 'This guy is living too close to a school.' I agree with keeping them out of those areas, but some will argue they'll do it no matter where they live."

Feldman said making them continually move could also result in a higher noncompliancy rate. "As time goes by, will it be easier for them to just not register?" said Feldman.

(Earlier articles noted that non-compliance under simple registration and notification laws runs around 5 to 10%, but that under these zoning laws non-compliance zooms to 50% or more.)

Colebank said they could be driven into isolation, which could create more of a hazard.

"With many of the people we treat, isolation played a role in them committing the offense, and we risk replicating that," said Colebank.

So Kentuckians are buying a false sense of security, and paying for it with significantly increased risk of recidivism, thus turning more Kentuckians into victims. Brilliant, folks. Just brilliant.


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