Wednesday, July 05, 2006

"New sex offender law all but unenforceable"

New sex offender law all but unenforceable

Georgia’s new sex offender law, ostensibly designed to keep some of society’s worst elements far from where they can cause harm, is already a failure.

The law, which had been scheduled to take effect on July 1, is tied up in court already, a move that likely has law enforcement agencies across the state sighing with relief.

The law has good intentions. It prohibits sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a number of places where no one wants them: schools, day care centers, churches, etc. The problem is that once many municipalities began drawing 1,000-foot circles around everything the law enumerates, there were not many places left for sex offenders to live.

The new law prevents sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of school bus stops. There are more than 2,000 bus stops in Camden County. Once the county finishes drawing 1,000-foot circles around all of them, there probably won't be much real estate, if any, left over in Camden County for sex offenders.

And if there's no room in a mostly rural county like Camden, there won't be any in most of Georgia. This is likely what lawmakers intended when they wrote the law, but it's irresponsible lawmaking at best.
[Likely?! It IS EXACTLY what they intended!]


The law is embroiled in a Constitution-level lawsuit and has had a temporary restraining order placed upon it by a federal judge, blocking its enforcement. The question is whether the law imposes an ex post facto — after the fact — punishment and is therefore unconstitutional is one that will be tied up in court for some time. It's likely the lawmakers knew this before passing the law, but were just hoping to score some points by appearing tough on crime, even though the law can't be enforced and, therefore, has no value.

There are other parts of the legislation that make sense and have the desired effect of clamping down on sex offenders. The law mandates a 25-year prison sentence for rapists and child molesters and requires sexual predators to be monitored by electronic tracking devices.

Perhaps the greatest danger of the new law is that it is so strict that sex offenders will simply stop registering with police departments as required. This registration is vital to helping law enforcement monitor the whereabouts of sex offenders and if sex offenders fail to use it, there is no law enforcement organization in Camden County with the resources to track them all. Other states that have enacted laws similar to Georgia have seen registration rates drop from more than 90 percent to less than 50 percent.

We are all for laws that increase safety for children, but this one needed a little more thought before being enacted.

Gee, do you think? This information was available, but they went ahead anyway.


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