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Duluth Ordinance to Ban Sex Offenders from Affordable Housing

May 9, 2010

duluthnewstribune.com: Ordinance would ban sex offenders from most affordable housing -Three city councilors are proposing an ordinances that would prevent convicted Level 3 sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a church, playground or day care. But critics say the measure would push those offenders back toward a life of crime.

If you look closely, there’s a spot on the Aerial Lift Bridge where Level 3 sex offenders could live.

Otherwise, if an ordinance proposed by three Duluth city councilors passes on Monday, the number of areas sex offenders who are most likely to reoffend can live in Duluth would be severely limited. The ordinance would all but bar them from most low-income housing areas in the city.

That’s according to a map put together by the city of Duluth that shows where the offenders would be banned — which is within 2,000 feet of any church, playground or day care.

Not that the councilors who proposed the ordinance have any problem with that. But some experts disagree. Studies suggest that limiting where sex offenders can live doesn’t reduce the rate of repeat offenses — but actually increases it, said William Donnay, the director of risk assessment and community notification for the Minnesota Department of Corrections.

A Department of Corrections study of all 224 sex offenders from 1990 to 2002 who returned to prison for another offense found that in not a single case would the reoffense been prevented by restricting where the offender could live.

Donnay says other studies show that making it harder for an inmate to find housing increases that person’s instability, leads to homelessness and increases chances of reoffending. An ordinance like the one proposed by the Duluth City Council, he said, provides a false sense of security for residents.

“People conclude because of the residency restrictions, there are never any sex offenders in my neighborhood,” he said. “It’s not where they’re sleeping at night, who they’re hanging out with, who they are associating with. It’s where are they spending their time during waking hours? That’s what we need to look at in terms of recidivism.”

Tom Roy, executive director of Arrowhead Regional Corrections, which supervises the offenders, said he also believes the restrictions might increase the likelihood of reoffending. “We would support efforts that would tend to support sex offenders rather than destabilize their lives,” Roy said.

Offenders would largely be banned from the areas and facilities they typically use for housing now, such as the Seaway Hotel and the CHUM shelter.
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areavoices.com:Duluth News Tribune.

It really worries that me experts with the Minnesota Department of Corrections and Arrowhead Regional Corrections say the ban would probably make it more likely that the Level III sex offenders would re-offend. Is it spin? Surely the ordinance would make their jobs harder in finding a place to live for the offenders, but their foremost interest is in making sure their offenders don’t re-offend. So I’ll take their word that the ordinance will make it worse, not better.

If you’re interested in looking through the data cited to me by the DOC, it mostly went with this 2007 study. And it seems pretty conclusive that this ordinance won’t make our neighborhoods safer. One of the things pointed out to me by the DOC that I didn’t quite squeeze into my article: in an overwehelming amount of the re-offenses (89 percent), the victim was known to the offender — meaning the council ordinance would have no real affect on that percentage. Of course, if the council ordinance reduces the 11 percent were strangers number, then that’s a positive, right?

The city council has only received four emails on this topic so far — all in opposition to the ordinance.

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