Thursday, August 24, 2006

Sex offenders law is backfiring, driving them underground

What did I tell you?

What are we going to do about sex offenders? While the hearts of Lt. Gov. Steve Pence and his task force were in the right place in trying to protect the public, what has happened in reality is the opposite.

The change in Kentucky's law has totally eliminated most social service agencies willing to work with offenders, because of the strict boundaries of where offenders may be housed or served.

House Bill 3 added the restriction of 1,000 feet from parks, as well as child care centers. There are 123 Metro Louisville parks and 17 more from Shively to St. Matthews.

Metro Parks alone encompass over 14,000 acres, and as the Mayor continues his vision to add even more parks and green space, sex offenders will be constantly moving in order to maintain the appropriate distance.

Some have had to move from permanent supported housing units, private apartments and even their own homes in order to meet the law's restrictions.

In 1994, Megan's Law was passed to keep the public informed of the whereabouts of sex offenders, but since housing options are so limited, there are few substance-abuse programs, shelters, mental health facilities or prison re-entry programs available to them.

Instead of knowing where the offenders are residing, new laws such as House Bill 3 are in essence driving them underground, and no one is really sure where they are living.

If an offender wants to seek help, it is almost impossible to serve him/her in Metro Louisville. Lack of services to help ex-offenders maintain stability only increases the likelihood the person may violate the law and be rearrested. ...

But all that's okay if the Mayor gets re-elected.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Fearmongers still feed on sex offender anxiety

Michigan's online sex-offender registry is a grab bag of 39,000 residents prosecuted for everything from teenage promiscuity to violent sexual assault.

A bipartisan panel of Michigan legislators has been studying ways to make the registry more like the useful parental resource its inventors envisioned and less like the unwieldy instrument of persecution it has become.

But progress has been slow, and even as Lansing dawdles, local politicians are riding the public's anxiety over pedophilia to new heights of legislative lunacy.

The newest outbreak occurred last week in Warren, where City Council members directed their staff to draft an ordinance barring anyone on Michigan's sex-offender registry from the city's 20 public parks and two community recreation centers.

Sponsor Mindy Moore, a former Warren school board member elected to the City Council in 2003, says the park ban would supplement existing travel restrictions that prohibit registered sex offenders from venturing within 1,000 feet of a school.

Moore isn't the first politician to figure that few constituents will object to any new burden on people labeled as sex offenders, no matter how illogical or impractical to enforce. But I was astonished how little she knew about the 39,000 Michigan residents whose movements she proposes to restrict.

Moore uses the terms "child predator" and "registered sex offender" interchangeably, although most law enforcement officials agree that predators account for only a small percentage of registrants. In a phone interview Saturday, Moore said she had no idea how many people are on Michigan's registry, or what proportion have targeted minors.

"We can debate all day who should be on the sex-offender list," Moore said. "But my concern is who should be hanging around our parks." When I pointed out that most of those affected by Warren's park ban aren't considered child molesters, she responded: "If we can deter one predator from going to the park, it's worth it."

It's hard to think of any restriction that couldn't be justified with that sort of sweeping rationalization. Why stop at parks and schools? Should sex offenders who can't go within 1,000 feet of a baseball diamond be free to patronize ice cream parlors frequented by Little Leaguers? Should shopping malls and pizza parlors be off-limits? What about churches that provide meeting space for scout troops, or public libraries frequented by students after school hours?

In fact, many of those listed on Michigan's registry are nonviolent offenders at negligible risk of recidivism. Thousands are former youthful offenders trying to get on with normal lives despite restrictions that preclude them from attending their own children's parent-teacher conferences and make it difficult to find or retain jobs.

Moore and her kindred fearmongers offer no evidence that the restrictions they propose are cost-effective or narrowly tailored to protect children. The Warren City Council should rethink the park ban before the courts scuttle it on constitutional grounds.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Another risk of zoning laws

This would be absolutely hilarious -- except for the increased risk involved:

Law on sex offenders logistical headache, Daily Times, Maryville TN

The purpose of the Child Protection Act of 2006 is obvious -- the law is designed to protect Tennessee's children.

However, one provision in the act is apparently making it more difficult to sentence, supervise and treat sexual offenders whose victims were minors.

Local concerns about sex offenders being treated next door to Fort Craig School of Dynamic Learning have been eliminated by the new law.

A provision in the law states that sex offenders whose victims were minors may not ``knowingly obtain sexual offender treatment or attend a sexual offender treatment program'' within 1,000 feet of the property line of ``any public school, private or parochial school, licensed day care center, other child care facility, public park, playground, recreation center or public athletic field available for use by the general public.''

The law immediately shut down the sex-offender treatment program operated by Bill Tillery, owner of Psychological and Counseling Services at 601 Charles St., on the corner across Lamar Street from Fort Craig School.

Tillery, a licensed clinical social worker, had been conducting two group sex-offender treatment sessions each week until an outcry from Fort Craig parents last spring. The parents were concerned that having sex offenders in such close proximity to the school posed a threat to their children. ...

Tillery can't meet with sex offenders at the probation and parole office in Maryville because that location on Home Avenue is within 1,000 feet of a public park, Maryville's Greenway Trail. ...

At present, sex offenders required to regularly report to their probation and parole officer cannot go to the Maryville office or to 20 or more offices across the state for those meetings. ...

''I cannot find any evidence that the location for treatment of sexual offenders has caused community harm,'' Tillery said. ``I can provide research to show that sex offenders not in treatment are 10 times more likely to re-offend. Making it so difficult for offenders to get treatment increases the risk to the children in the community.''

I am aghast at the really poor quality of Tennessee legislators. Surely somebody of reasonable intelligence would stepped back for a second to say, "Waittaminute, have we REALLY thought this one through?"

But it seems nobody did.

Figures. Shout "sex offender" and all reason flies out the window. Stupid, stupid, stupd.

And I bet not a one of them will have the honor to tell the public, "We goofed, we put your children at INCREASED risk, we apologize and will try to fix it."

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

High School To Use National Sex Offender Registry

Another expensive scheme...

Bentonville High School plans to use a software program this fall that will allow school officials to check visitors' names against a national sex offenders registry.

The high school will ask visitors to show their driver's license or other state-issued photo ID. The license will be scanned into the system, which will check the person's name and birth date against a list of registered sex offenders from 47 states. If the system turns up a match, it also provides a picture of the registered offender.

If the visitor is registered as a sex offender and has no legitimate business at the school, that person will be asked to leave.

This is either going to be very expensive, or a colossal failure. In order to work what's needed is an independent and nearly instant check of the veracity of the license. Such is available, but at $2 a check this will eat into to the school's budget.

If the system merely checks the name & DOB against the registry, it will be very easily bypassed with a fake ID. And these guys have already been in prison so they'll know all about that.

Of course, this assumes that the visitor doesn't bypass the office altogether. Or the office can require ID tags on everyone -- another expense.

For the life of me, I cannot think of a single circumstance where such a system would have ever saved a child from an assault. But... it's their money to waste.