Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Somers Passes Draconian Sex Offender Ordinance

Draconian action, from a municipality in the Kenosha Area, that could have untenable consequences:
SOMERS - Despite assurances from a Department of Corrections official that the department does a good job at supervising sex offenders, the Somers Town Board on Tuesday unanimously approved an ordinance that will restrict where sex offenders can live.

Board members Vern Wienke and Ben Harbach were absent, but with three of the five board members present a quorum was still met.

The ordinance prohibits registered sex offenders, who did not previously live in the town, from residing within 2,500 feet of schools, churches, parks, trails, day cares, places of worship and wherever children gather. Convicted sexual offenders who previously lived in Somers will be prohibited from living within 500 feet of those places.

Additional requirements include barring convicted sexual offenders from living within 2,500 feet of each other and requiring offenders to notify the town of their residence.

Under the ordinance, violators - the offenders and those who rent to them - would be fined $500 per day and could face up to 90 days in jail.
Besides the fact that retribution AFTER sentencing is completely unethical and not jurisprudent, this ordinance will do a few things.

1. It will prohibit most sex offenders from locating to Somers from somewhere else (2500 feet is slightly less than 1/2 a mile).
2. It will severely restrict the ability for current residents to live in the city, and could possibly restrict them to areas where residential property is more expensive (500 feet is no insignificant distance).
3. It will either create a complete physical impossibility, or it will extirpate most if not all sex offenders from the town.

Naturally, municipalities in the area will seek to mitigate what they will undoubtedly see as an exodus of pedophiles marching into their schools, churches and homes, to feed on innocent children everywhere. This mitigation will involve the use of similar draconian measures that in the end could prove disastrous for sex offenders as well as every other citizen. We have seen this happen before...
The men have flocked to the Ced-Rel and other rural motels and trailer parks because no one else will, or can, have them. A new state law barring those convicted of sex crimes involving children from living within 2,000 feet of a school or day care center has brought unintended and disturbing consequences. It has rendered some offenders homeless and left others sleeping in cars or in the cabs of their trucks.

[...]

Of the more than 6,000 people on Iowa's registry of sex offenders, 400 are now listed as "whereabouts unconfirmed" or living in "non-structure locations" (like tents, parking lots or rest areas). Last summer, the number was 140.

[...]

Before September, Sheriff Zeller said, he knew where 90 percent of Linn County's sex offenders were living, and today he knows where slightly more than half live. Just before Christmas, the sheriff said, one man began spending his days inside the sheriff's office because he had no where else to go.
Further evidence:

Federal law requires states to create registries of offenders convicted of sex crimes or offenses against children. And it mandates that local law enforcement agencies provide information to the public about sex offenders living in the community. But Georgia went a lot further and enacted restrictions on where offenders on the registry can live and work.

Suddenly, aging Alzheimer's patients were being evicted from nursing homes that were near playgrounds, and 18-year-old boys who'd had sex with their 15-year-old classmates were ordered out of their family homes because of a neighboring family day care center. People had to quit long-term jobs because their workplace was too close to a church.

[...]

In passing its law, Georgia looked to Iowa, which pioneered blanket residency restrictions in 2002. Today the Iowa County Attorneys Association says, "The research shows that there is no correlation between residency restrictions and reducing sex offenses against children or improving the safety of children." The Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault said the number of sex offenders who are unaccounted for has more than doubled since the law went into effect.
With research showing these methods to be ineffective, and with no positive results to be seen, why in the hell do we keep doing this? Why do we continue to undermine civil liberties to enact unconstitutional and unethical ordinances/laws/statutes that have absolutely NO positive effect?

Two reasons that I propose:

1. Society always has its witch to burn.

2. Society votes for politicians who are "tough on crime."

Forget however, the fact that the State Legislature passed a Statute barring municipalities from proposing such an ordinance:
State law prohibits a town from passing such an ordinance, contending that zoning in unincorporated areas must be handled by the county. But town officials say it's not a matter of zoning - it's a matter of health and safety.
Give me a break.

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