“My intent personally is to make it so onerous on those that are convicted of these offenses . . . they will want to move to another state.”
Georgia House Majority Leader Jerry Keen (R) who sponsored a new Georgia law that forbids registered sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school, playground, church or school bus stop, doesn’t care where sex offenders go, as long as they leave Georgia. After that, they’re someone else’s problem. Gee, Ohio thanks you, Representative Keen.
Sex offender residency restrictions aren’t all that new. 17 states currently limit where registered sex offenders can live. Here in central Ohio, one city councilman is trying to prevent registered sex offenders from even working in his city.
I’m not sure these laws are the best thing for the situation.
Why do I have an issue with this? How could anyone be against the idea of banning sex offenders from living next door to a school, right? You’re asking yourself if I’m really crazy, or what, right? It’s about keeping the children safe, isn’t it? If we don’t let them live in certain places, that will keep the children safe, right?
Well, for starters, do you know where every school bus stop is in your city or county? Is it going to be in the same place next year? Will the school board add a new stop in front of your house in two years? That’s one problem. I know in Franklin County, school bus stops are not fixed objects. In most cases, the board decrees that the bus will stop in front of 1234 Any Street, but there’s nothing to demonstrate that it’s a school bus stop unless you happen to notice the kids congregating there in the morning.
The Georgia law is affecting some 10,000 or so offenders, including an 81-year-old man in late-stage Alzheimer’s, and a terminally ill man who is being forced from his hospice. In same cases, the sex offenders were so designated because they were caught having oral sex as a minor, or because they allegedly didn’t do enough to stop their 15-year-old daughter from having sex! How are they supposed to stop that?
I feel for the families of victims. I really, truly do. I know first-hand how sex offenses can damage a family.
But what good are these laws doing? Does anyone really, honestly, believe that a law keeping someone from living next door to a church will keep them from walking by that church? Just because an offender can’t live by the bus stop, will that really keep her from driving by? When you prevent someone from working in your city, and restrict where they can live, where are they going to go? What if their entire support system lives in your city? Are you going to force them to move someplace without a support system, where they might not have a job? What happens then? If they end up jobless, they’ll run out of money eventually, then they won’t have a permanent place to live. Then what? Kind of hard to restrict where they live if you can’t find them because they’re homeless. And consider this: a Realtor may have an office in one suburb, but list houses all across the city. How are you going to control where they “work?” What about blue-collar workers? You know, like they people who clean your drains, or do your landscaping, or paint your house? Their work address may be 40 miles away, and they’re fine there. But are they allowed to do that sub-contracting job in your house?
And what about the damage to the offender’s immediate family? Do you tell your 3- and 6-year-old kids that Daddy is camping out. Every night?
So what’s the solution?
I think part of it has to include better checks by the post-release control authority. Yes, that means more money. But until the probation and parole authorities have the staff to check up on sex offenders, you’re going to run into problems. Registries are a good idea. But they can also provide a false sense of security. Remember, just because you know where they live doesn’t mean they’re going to stay there 24 hours a day. They have a life. And if you don’t want them to have a life, then why release them from prison?