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Tough on crime, or just tough on sex offenders?

October 13, 2009

The Louisville Courier-Journal and Elizabethtown News-Enterprise are among the latest to weigh in one the reach of sex offender residency restrictions in the wake of a recent Kentucky Supreme Court ruling.

The court issued an opinion earlier this month that struck down a portion of a 2006 state law that retroactively imposed residency restrictions upon convicted sex offenders. The court found that going back and adding additional penalties, in the form of a ban on living within 1,000 feet of schools, playgrounds and daycare centers, after a sex offender had been convicted and sentenced was unconstitutional.

It’s the lastest in a string of court decisions that finds lawmakers imposing additional penalties upon sex offenders that have been found unconstitutional.

Attorney Bradley Wayne Fox  represented a Kenton County man in the Kentucky case, and told the Associated Press that such restrictions don’t have an impact.

“It doesn’t actually accomplish anything, or at least there’s no statistics or evidence that it accomplishes anything,” Fox told the AP. “It’s a political placebo of ‘Hey, we’ve got this law, we’re protecting your children’ when in reality it’s a false sense of security.”

The question remains whether these types of restrictions have the intended impact of keeping children safe, or just making lawmakers appear to be keeping children safe.

That’s the point the Courier-Journal makes in an editorial today, and a point that people need to understand as the state works to balance a person’s rights, which aren’t completely forfeited if they are convicted of a sex offense, and the need to deter sex crimes.

Too many lawmakers shy away from using common sense with sex offenders residency laws for fear of being labeled “pro-sex offender,” as the Courier-Journal notes

Asking questions about sex-offender laws does not make one pro-sex offender.

Indeed, some lawmakers who made laws that are being struck down by the courts could and should be asked whether sex-offender measures were used to burnish tough-on-crime credentials without careful and further thought about how the laws might play out — or not — and how they might actually protect the public — or not — in the long run, and how those laws might overburden or overextend the law enforcement officers sworn to protect the public.

The Elizabethtown News-Enterprise hits on the same point in its editorial on the issue

When it comes to sex offenders, there always will be a degree of fear. It is the duty of those in power to hold themselves above such fear and make rational, legal decisions to protect and serve the people. While the temptation to pass or modify laws based on emotion or public outcry is understandably strong, it also is a dangerous way to govern.

Make no mistake, it is imperative to keep our children safe — but it also is vital to make sure we and our lawmakers do not let fears overshadow common sense, individual rights and the sacred duty to uphold the Constitution that keeps our laws fair.

Any thoughts on the issue? Are these residency laws too restrictive or not restrictive enough?

If these types of restrictions work, why not ban bank robbers from living within 1,000 feet of a bank, or habitual drunks from living within 1,000 feet of a bar?

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4 Comments
  1. Gabriel permalink
    October 13, 2009 7:59 pm

    I do not live in Kentucky but travel through the Cincinnati Florence area frequently.
    I am a sex offender. Fear me, not for the crime I committed but rather for the corner I am being forced into. My crime happened 15 years ago, when in my early twenties I had a relationship with a girl, quote, “just shy of the age of consent” and for that I did 2 years in an Ohio prison- for a very probational offense. My crime and my sentence occurred before the names “Megan” and “Jessica” fell off the lips of politicians trying to look good to voters.
    Fear me, for you are making me homeless. Fear me, for you are making me jobless. Fear me, because you are making me alone. I am educated, well trained and in what should be the best part of my life. Instead, I live doing what I can to make a meager living, always on the look out for some new law that will say I have to move, or terrified that I will be in violation of some obscure part of the hundreds of sex offender bills that the police don’t even fully understand.
    I am good man who made a mistake. My “victim” and I remain close friends, when ever I get up that way we have dinner, we go out with her kids to the park. I am engaged to a wonderful woman, but I will never marry her and put my scarlet on her. I will never make her a target for some vigilante who watches far to much Nancy Grace.
    I should be happy, I should be on my way to a great life, but instead I stay home, terrified that I will be pointed at….again. I live under the gun of laws that were created after my crime. Can anyone think that’s fair? I could go into a long, fact based discussion about how sex offenders as whole have the lowest recidivism rates, back it up with study after study by states and the DOJ and then go on to explain I have had no legal problems in the years since my release expect for a registry issue that I faced 5 years for not signing my name, but nobody wants to hear it or even cares. All people care about is this perception that the laws serve the community. I feel that behind the scenes the people that pass them do so with no thoughts of public except to appear tough on a group of people that are perceived as hopeless. Then laws are passed to make sure we fail.
    These laws will eventually be overturned, at first a trickle, but then a flood. Ex Post Defacto laws are specifically prohibited by section 9 of US Constitution: “No bill of attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.” It doesn’t go on to list exceptions, that’s the entire sentence. Habeas Corpus, the right of due process of law is explained in the section above and it stipulates it can be suspended but the writers felt strongly enough about the unfairness of ex post de facto laws they made no exceptions, period. So it is just matter of time before the courts realize not only the ineffectiveness of these laws but the unconstitutionality as well.
    In the meantime, though, I suffer. I live in constant fear of running afoul of some tiny little law. I am scared and I feel increasingly corned. My choices are all to simple: I can die quietly or I can fight back. The system has given me nothing to lose and that’s why I should be feared. I will not go quietly into the darkness, I am a survivor and I will take the fight to the their faces or behind their backs. I will not go easily.
    Keep pushing me and people might be surprised how hard I can push back. And I am just one of 675,000 registered sex offenders.

    Gab

  2. Sue permalink
    October 14, 2009 8:21 am

    Maybe Kentucky can lead the pack to reform these laws!

    Too many of our teens are getting caught up in the “tough” on crime laws for being guilty of nothing but falling in love with a younger partner.

    They are being banished from communites; no jobs, becoming homeless and outcasts of society.

    The public needs to educate itself to see who today’s sex offenders are. Check out http://www.love-is-not-a-crime.com for a closer look.

    The millions of dollars that are being spent to track these teens could be much better used to track “true” offenders.

  3. Diane McSweeney permalink
    October 14, 2009 10:28 am

    I often wonder if our law makers are aware of the damage they are causing to families. I am speaking of the families of the offender. Families are being torn apart. Offenders cannot find jobs, places to live and are unable to turn their lives around. Instead we punish forever.
    We can all agree that children must and have to be protected. But protected from what? There are various degrees of offenders. Surely we cannot lump them all together. A young man who is accused of having sex with his teenage girlfriend is not the same as a man who abuses a young child. A man who exposes himself is not the same as a man who takes pornographic photos of a child. A man who downloads pornography is not the same as someone who distributes same.
    Lets use some common sense.

  4. October 14, 2009 1:44 pm

    hi gab, get intouch with us either through http://www.love-is-not-a-crime.com or http://www.reformsexoffenderlaws.org help us in this fight. you put it in the right prospective, these laws are not protecting children and those politicians who use children as a sword and shield to build political empires through prosecution are feeding the public with hype and fear. halloween is coming and the only ones we have to fear are those who feed on that hype. show me a offender who has nothing better to do than lurking in the dark to snatch children!the public needs to be educated, 1000sands of non-violent offenders are on list who should not even be there. guys making a wrong judgement call asking girls, if they need a ride, peeing behind the bushes, having highschool sweet hearts. i wonder if those politicians and law enforcment, judges did not have someone in their family,who got married in their family to young for todays laws, so they are having “sexoffefnders” in their families too? america should be ashamed of themself,every where the US is running to “help” with human rights and in their own country they throw so easely lives away. public wake up, before it can happen to your family,brother, sons,uncles, fathers. if you are ignorant and don’t do something soon, it will happen to you too!write your politicians, stand up for your fellow human, not even church can be visited. wake up before it is to late….

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