The Law, Sex Offenders And Unintended Consequences

USA Today recently had a piece about an unintended consequence of sex offender registration laws; the clustering of sex offenders in trailer parks and motels. This is causing legislators to consider more knee-jerk legislation to “fix” the problem.
    • Experts who study the issue say the new laws may make problems worse by forcing sex offenders into homelessness or isolating them from social services and jobs.
    • “The larger the buffer zone and the more densely populated the area is, the more difficult it is for them to find housing,” said Jill Levenson, an associate professor of psychology at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., who specializes in sex crime policy.
    • A study in Orange County, Fla., found 99% of residential housing is off-limits to sex offenders, she said.
    • “It’s a real quandary,” Levenson said. Clustering laws that bar sex offenders from living together narrow the options even more. “Where do we think these people are going to go?”

While I am sure that many people would just like sex offenders to disappear this is not going to happen and is not realistic. The intent of these laws was to protect citizens from these offenders. However, the very laws intended to protect us make end up making us less safe if sex offenders are placed in a no-win situation with no place to live and are unable to work which may make them more likely to re-offend.
In the community where I work sex offenders are prohibited from residing within a certain distance of playgrounds, day care centers, schools, school bus stops, etc. Like Orange County, Florida this makes a majority of the city off limits or so it would seem at first glance. However, it does not apply to sex offenders who already reside in those areas and it certainly doesn’t prohibit them from driving, walking, skateboarding, or bicycling in those areas. If this is the case then the law makes us feel like we’ve done something without actually making anyone safer.
If the law you pass to fix a problem just makes the problem worse then maybe you need to rethink that one.

by Scott Dickson

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