Tag Archives: sex offenders

Iowa: It’s like you’re always stuck in second gear*

Iowa was supposed to be on the forefront of the “revisit residency restrictions” movement. Iowa was supposed to be the vanguard of the sensible restrictions movement. Iowa was supposed to show the rest of the country that these draconian laws don’t work and here’s how to do it.

Unfortunately, not so fast. It seems that – as all hot button political issues go – this has become politicized and stuck in a quagmire (For those keeping track, that’s two sitcom references).

Iowa sheriffs and prosecutors on Monday blasted lawmakers for failing to roll back a controversial and politically charged law restricting where sex offenders can live.

“They’re just afraid to take action, and the people of Iowa should be ashamed,” said Story County Sheriff Paul Fitzgerald. “It’s absolutely politics at its worst.”

Earlier this year, the bipartisan panel heard during a series of public meetings from a number of groups – sex offender experts, statewide law enforcement associations, prevention experts and victims – who uniformly criticized the state law banning sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of schools or child care centers.

However, those on the other side of the aisle are firm in their belief that this is not what the residents of Iowa want.

But Senate Minority Leader Mary Lundby of Marion said Republicans would resist any attempt to repeal the 2,000-foot law, which went into effect in 2005. Lundby said her belief is that people do not support such a move.

“My message hasn’t changed since the beginning of the session,” she said. “We will support additional spending for monitoring (sex offenders) and additional assessment, but people across the aisle don’t want them in their neighborhoods, period.”

It will be very interesting to see how this all plays out – with the end of session on Friday.

See also: SexCrimes and Corrections Sentencing

Previous coverage:

*My sincerest apologies to those that had repressed any memory of that song and that show.

Maine to review scores of sex offender bills

Maine legislators will begin to review several sex offender bills, including the constitutionality of residency restrictions, when session begins next week. Among the highlights:

  • New crime of loitering in a child safe zone
  • Tiered risk assessment
  • Constitutionality of residency restrictions

Glad to see that more legislatures are beginning to pick up on the fact that these measures don’t really do anything.

Update: While I’m on the subject, here’s another opinion piece coming out against residency restrictions (thanks to Ilah).

No research has evaluated the impact of residency restrictions on recidivism. An Arizona study found child molesters were more likely than rapists to live near schools. The Arizona study did not explore recidivism, however, or other factors affecting sex offenders’ housing choices. No link between residency restrictions and sexual recidivism has been established. Colorado and Minnesota studied this issue prior to enacting residency restriction laws. Researchers found that such laws were not a strategy for preventing sex crimes but found individualized restrictions may be appropriate.

No viable research examines the efficacy of residence restrictions. Research does identify unintended consequences. According to a Florida study involving sex offenders on probation, one quarter reported relocating because of the state’s law. Nearly half reported they could not reside with family. Fifty-seven percent reported less available affordable housing, leading to isolation and stress.

In conclusion he writes:

Residency restrictions disrupt offender stability and often isolate sex offenders from their support systems. While isolation from family is often initially appropriate for family safety, this should be based on risk assessments rather than all encompassing laws. Residency restrictions remove offenders from employment and public transportation, creating financial stress, a dynamic risk factor associated with reoffense. Stable employment and housing are essential for offenders to successfully transition into the community.

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Studies on efficacy of registries and residency restrictions

Update: Reader “Ilah” has sent quite a few more my way.

Original post: Helpful reader “Oneandonly” points to two studies that conclude that residency restrictions have no impact on sex offenses. Unfortunately, neither one has a date on it, so I’m not sure how recent they are (In fact, the first one is available only via Google’s cache). Does anyone know of any other studies that are being conducted or have been conducted on the effectiveness of residency restrictions and sex offender registries?

This, I think, is a vital point in the discourse over the need for such measures. If they are found to be beneficial, then the argument against them loses some ground, but if they are found to make no difference or even worsen the situation, then obviously there needs to be a stronger push against them.

If you know of any such studies, leave a comment or send me an e-mail.

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Sex offender not allowed to go back to jail

One of the sex offenders living under Florida’s Julia Tuttle Causeway motioned the court to allow him to return to jail. The court refused his request. The only article I can find on this has no further information on the judge’s reasoning for the denial and I think I understand the court’s hesitance to return someone to jail who has been paroled and has not yet committed a crime, but c’mon, something has to be done.

How long will these 5 men live under a bridge? A bridge, for cryin’ out loud! The state really needs to step up and do something here. Find a shelter for these men, preferably. At least Mr. Morales was nice enough to ask the judge. Next time, he might be forced to commit a crime to get back to jail and then we know what everyone will say.

Previous coverage:

HT: SexOffenderIssues

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“Acceptable” registries and residency restrictions

Ever since Steve posted his opinion on what would be sensible registry and residency restriction legislation, I’ve been thinking about what I’d like to see implemented. Today, I have a few ideas.

1. Mandatory risk-assessment: Every inmate shall have his case presented to a risk assessment panel no later than 6 months prior to his or her release date. The panel shall consist of previously appointed individuals from the board of parole.

2. Criteria to be examined: The age of the offender; the age of the victim; degree of kinship (if any); prior sexual offenses; length of sentence; ties to the community; job experience; potential for re-employment; programs availed of during incarceration; allocution; victim statement, if any; conditions of probation.

3. Statutory exemptions: Offenders convicted of “statutory rape” where the sexual contact was consensual are automatically exempt from any registration and registry requirements.

4. Risk level scores to be assigned (tiered system): The risk assessment panel shall assign a risk level score to each offender. The scale shall be as follows: 1 – low level offender; 2 – mid level offender; 3 – high level offender.

5. Low level offenders shall be required to register for only 2 years, but the registration will not be publicly available and shall not have any residency restrictions imposed on them.

6. Mid level offenders shall be required to register for 5 years and will not be permitted to reside within 1000 feet of schools or playgrounds. Mid level offenders will also not be permitted to work where they will come in contact with minors under the age of 16.

7. High level offenders shall be required to register for 20 years and will not be permitted to reside within 2000 feet of schools or playgrounds. These offenders shall also not be permitted to work where they will come in contact with minors.

8. All offenders shall be permitted to return to their existing residences if they have resided there for more than 5 years prior to the date of the offense, unless the victim of their offense lives within 2000 feet.

9. The registration of all mid-level and high-level offenders shall be available to the public.

10. Requirements for obtaining information: Any member of the public seeking information on mid-level and high-level offenders shall be required to provide a name, valid address and proof that a child under the age of 16 resides in their home.

11. The Department of Corrections shall be charged with the task of ensuring that all sex offenders are given adequate training in vocations that does not require contact with minors.

12. Parents will be charged with the task of educating their children about not talking to strangers and not getting into strangers’ cars.

13. Penalty for misuse: Anyone using publicly available information to threaten, harass or injure a released sex offender shall be guilty of the offense corresponding to their actions, or a Class D felony, whichever is greater.

Ugh. I had more, but I received a phone call and now I’ve lost my train of thought. Anyway, what do you guys think? A little crazy? Too liberal?

yet another sex offender bill

CT seems to be in the grasp of a storm to pass as much sex offender legislation as it can this session. Another bill proposed yesterday is aimed at making details of convictions more easily available.

Connecticut lawmakers are considering a number of bills that would provide more information about sex offenders and control where they can live.

Barbara Bonin, of Sterling, has three children all under the age of 6. When she moved to Sterling’s Oneco neighborhood near the Rhode Island border, she wanted a safe place to raise her children.

“We looked at the school system here … We looked for the sex offenders. We looked for the crime rates,” Bonin said.

At the time, no sex offenders lived near her home. Bonin said the neighborhood has recently changed and that she was asked if she recognized a man in a photograph. She didn’t recognize the man but was curious.

She learned that the man in the picture, Michael Rose, is a registered sex offender.

“I was very upset,” Bonin said. “I was beyond upset.”

So she has a right to live there, but he doesn’t. Here’s another dangerous idea: tying sex offenders into housing markets. This is added incentive for towns to pass residency restrictions prohibiting sex offenders from living within their boundaries.

As to the bill itself, I think it might have some value. For example, in the case that is the focus of the story:

Currently, the registry only lists Rose’s offenses as a sex assault in the third-degree. To find out the specific charges, you have to pay $25 to the state police for a criminal history.

Eyewitness News paid the fee and learned that Rose has been arrested eight times since 1981 on a variety of drug and sexual assault charges. No where in his rap sheet does it indicate any charges involving a minor.

I have a new idea! If you want information about sex offenders (or more specifically those convicted of offenses involving minors) you have to register with your name and address and provide proof that you have a child under the age of 16 living in your house. How’s that?

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Impact of sex offender restrictions a worry

Worcester, MA is concerned about the impact of neighboring towns’ sex offender residency restrictions. Worcester’s Councilor-at-Large, Kathleen Toomey, is asking the city manager to report on what the impact on the city could be.

Ms. Toomey said, “I’m concerned about the impact on Worcester. … If those were enacted, does that mean that they would be moving to Worcester if they were not welcomed in their existing communities?“Worcester already has a fair number of existing sex offenders. I don’t want us to have to take any more than we have to.”

She seems cognizant of many of the problems associated with residency restrictions, including the fact that law enforcement finds it difficult to keep track of offenders forced to move out of their homes.

Ms. Toomey said she does not know what the city should do about the potential impact of sex offenders coming here.“I’m not asking for anything,” she said. “I understand there’s a fine line between civil rights and protecting the citizens of the community.” Ms. Toomey said she is aware that some police fear that restrictions on where sex offenders can live could drive them underground and make them harder to keep track of.

“I’m looking for information and a discussion,” she said.

If people get overly restricted where they live, Ms. Toomey said, it would be natural for them to move to a city the size of Worcester, where they could blend in anonymously.

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