AL: Legislature Passes Limit on Housing Sex Offenders

April 24, 2010

blog.al.com: Alabama Legislature passes limit on housing sex offenders.

The Alabama Legislature has given approval to a bill that would limit the number of registered sex offenders living together in Jefferson County.

The bill, sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Priscilla Dunn, D-Bessemer, and in the House by Rep. Oliver Robinson, D-Birmingham, now goes to Gov. Bob Riley for his review.

The measure would bar landlords from housing more than one registered sex offender under one roof and would require offenders who live in an apartment complex to reside at least 100 yards from each other.

City officials in the western Jefferson County town of Mulga asked Dunn to sponsor the bill because a boarding house there has had as many as four offenders living there. State law prohibits offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or day care. Mulga has no schools or day care facilities.

Rosie Parker, who owns the boarding house, said she has only one registered offender at her home now, her brother. “I was trying to help them out,” Parker said.

Her brother, Samuel Washington, said it was disappointing to learn that the bill had been approved. Washington, 53, who was convicted in Texas of aggravated sexual assault, said he didn’t think the bill was fair because “everybody deserves a second chance at life.

“I can understand how they feel, but I’m human, too,” he said. “It creates a problem for those who are trying to resume a life.”

The bill would affect 122 convicted sex offenders and 23 addresses in Jefferson County that would not be in compliance if it becomes law, including apartments, hotels, a ministry and at least two boarding houses, according to the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.

David Gespass, a Birmingham lawyer who is a cooperating attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, said he believes the legislation has the potential to create a cycle because the inability to provide a residence could cause many sex offenders to fail to register, which brings additional convictions and jail time.

The bill does contain some exceptions. A landlord would not be in violation if the registered sex offender is a spouse or child, or the owner of the property. The landlord would also not be in violation if a registered sex offender does not provide written notice of his prior convictions.

Dunn said there was no opposition to the bill. It would become effective three months after it becomes law.
A state law that passed in 2007 doesn’t allow landlords in Birmingham to house more than one registered sex offender under the same roof.

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