Archive for February 19, 2009

Sex-offender Ordinance Halted

February 19, 2009 Comments off

ManitowocHeraldTimes (Wisconsin) : Sex-offender Ordinance Halted.

A proposal to keep convicted sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of areas frequented by children in the city of Manitowoc was knocked down tonight by the Public Property and Safety Committee of the City Council.
Committee members voted 4-1 to halt the creation of the ordinance, which would have kept offenders from residing near churches, schools, licensed child care centers, trails and parks. Maps drafted by the city showed that nearly all of Manitowoc would be off-limits to sex offenders with the 2,000-foot setback.

“There is no proof that we’re keeping our kids any safer by doing this,” Alderman Dave Soeldner said of the proposed ordinance. “There is some indication we may be endangering our kids more.”

“I can’t believe anyone would vote for this,” Sieracki said. “All the groups have said the same thing — it’s a bad idea. If we’re creating safe zones, then we’re creating danger zones. Our energy would be better spent on promoting safe behaviors.”

Sitkiewitz, chairman of the committee, said he instead would like the city to work on an ordinance with stronger notification requirements for residents when a convicted sex offender moves into their neighborhood.

“Having a bubble around your neighborhood doesn’t make it safe,” Sitkiewitz said. “I’m more concerned about notification and communication.”

Officials at the meeting, however, said the belief that a residency restriction will make the community safer is a fallacy. “Sex offenders live amongst us — they always have, and they always will,” Manitowoc County District Attorney Mark Rohrer said. “I don’t think (a residency restriction) is a good idea.”

Rohrer said most sexual offenses take place between people who know each other, and that often means they’re occurring inside homes.

“The majority isn’t circled by this (ordinance),” Sitkiewitz said. “Any ordinance that we draw will not exclude people from being friends.”

Sex Offenders Rights Must Be Observed

February 19, 2009 Comments off : Editorial | Rights of sex offenders must be observed.

Rights balancing is a tricky business, and sometimes it’s just easier to look the other way. That’s what happened when a Boston court sentenced Jeffrey Shields to civil detention last week as a sexually dangerous person. In this case, the court pulled a trick straight from “Minority Report” and locked up Shields, an ex-felon, to prevent him from committing future offenses.

For starters, the civil detention of past criminals comes eerily close to a double jeopardy violation because the state is inferring future crimes from past behavior. In essence, a person goes to jail for a crime, gets released and gets sent to a high-security civil detention center. The only reason it’s not legally double jeopardy is that it’s a civil rather than a criminal sanction, but that distinction is dubious at best. Whether they are in a prison or a detention center, the people in question are still behind bars.

In most cases, the state is merely using the guise of civil detention to unethically tack on years to a sentence beyond what the initial criminal court had determined fair. In particular, this toys with the idea that there is a just punishment for each crime. If, as a society, we feel that sex offenders are not serving enough time in prison, we should raise sentences, but instead we are looking for back doors.

The simple fact is that we do not lock sex offenders up for life, and there’s probably a good reason for that. As hard as it is to come to terms with when staring evil in the eyes, we are a society that fundamentally believes in the idea of just desert. We believe that prisoners pay their debt to society and then start again with a clean slate. That’s what helps us cope with crimes and believe that human beings, no matter what they’ve done in the past, are capable of redemption. It’s also why our prison system has so long incorporated the idea of rehabilitation.

Nevertheless, society has given up on sex offenders, deeming them incapable of recovery. While Shields was the first person sentenced to civil commitment under the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006, thousands have been put in civil detention facilities since the 1997 Supreme Court decision in Kansas v. Hendricks, which allows for the indefinite civil incarceration of sex offenders.

When the rights of past felons come in conflict with the safety of society, it makes sense to err on the side of protecting innocent people. But in doing so, we can’t escape from the uncomfortable reality that even sex offenders have rights.

Sex offenders are some of the most repugnant members of society, and we certainly need protection against them. We just can’t let that protection come at the cost of our ideals.

It’s time to move back toward the center.

AL Bans Sex Offenders from College Campuses

February 19, 2009 Comments off : Campus sex offender ban passes House.

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama House of Representatives on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a ban on sex offenders living or loitering near college campuses.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jamie Ison, now goes to the Senate, where that measure and many others approved by the House last year failed. Ison’s bill would prohibit convicted sex offenders from living in college dorms or within 2,000 feet of a campus. Sex offenders would be allowed to take classes at colleges and universities, but they could only be on campus if they had a “legitimate purpose,” the bill prescribes.

Sex offenders in Alabama are already prohibited from living near day care facilities, as well as elementary, middle and high schools. Though Jackson ultimately voted for the bill, he told Ison that barring sex offenders from various locations will not solve the problem.

This is about the most stupid legislation we have had to report at ConstitutionalFights. Not only is this patently unconstitutional, but college students are adults, not darling little vulnerable children !