Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Sex offender residency restrictions

I had the opportunity to write a journal article for the current issue of Criminal Justice Policy Review, reacting to a series of research articles in the March issue on the subject of sex offender residency restrictions. It’s not free, so let me sum it up in a few sentences: residency restrictions don’t work very well. There are some unintended consequences that could be counterproductive. It is wise public policy (like Nebraska) to limit the distance in residency restrictions to something reasonable.

Lincoln’s restriction of 500 ft. from a school for high risk offenders whose victims were children is judicious. It was a public policy carefully crafted to avoid the result of making housing unavailable to sex offenders, forcing them underground or into small “sex offender ghettos,” and destabilizing offenders to the detriment of public safety. We keep a close watch on those who are subject to the restriction, using some pretty sophisticated GIS work to automate this surveillance.

We have had several cases like this, most recently on February 12th, when we found a restricted offender living within 415 ft. of Prescott Elementary School, and issued a citation for the violation. He has subsequently moved, and is now in compliance with the law.


Anonymous said...

Sex assault is the closest you can come to death, without dying. Perps who commit this violation of basic human dignity are very sick people. The mind of a perp is like a sewer. The brain of a sexual perp is pooled with venom, vomit and poison. Some of those I know have died. Only the horrible memories of their existence on earth do they leave behind.

Jerry Ratcliffe said...


The whole issue of how we treat sex offenders in our 'modern' society is quite interesting. In simple terms the conundrum is this:
1. If these people are ill, then is jail and residency restrictions really the way that we should treat the mentally ill in the 21st Century? Alternatively 2) these people are criminals. If so, what happened to the notion that once you pay your debt to society you are released for the chance of rehabilitation?

I think residency restrictions are a relatively ineffective band-aid in lieu of a more considered and humane long-term policy. Unfortunately of course, I don't have a suggestion for what that policy should be...

Anonymous said...

I agree about the different approach of society in general toward sex offenders vs those that are convicted of murder, attempted murder, aggravated assault, armed robbery, et al. It's true that certain types of sex offenders have a very high recidivism rate and are likely to re-offend if given the chance. However, those convicted of most types of violent crime also have a very high risk of re-offending.

Being a decent-sized adult male, I'm not even remotely worried about being victimized by a sex offender, but a multiple-conviction armed robber or burglar moving into my neighborhood would raise alert level quite a bit. You can check out new neighbors online for serious felonies and serious misdemeanors online - if they buy the property - but if they rent, you may not even know your new neighbor's name.

Why lawmakers don't care where multiple-stretch murderers, robbers, burglars, etc live when they get kicked loose, while they do care where parole-completed sex-offenders live is a head scratcher. If sex offenders can't live near schools full of children, why can burglars live near apartments full of loot, car thieves near parking lots full of cars, and armed robbers near shopping malls, banks, and convenience stores?

Anonymous said...

I am a decent sized Male and I too don't feel personally threatened by a Sex offender. However I am concerned about my 120 pound girlfriend and her three young children having a confrontation with a Sex Offender. I cannot be there 24/7/366 to protect them.

Life with no parole would be my solution for these offenders but I don't think we as a Society have the guts to do it.

Gun Nut

Anonymous said...

Remember, everyone is basing how we treat "sex offenders" on a pre-conceived notion of what it takes to become a "sex offender" according to the law. I believe many of you would be surprised at how little it takes. Even becoming a Level 3 SO in Nebraska is a joke. The vast majority of SOs in Nebraska are level 3 -- even though many of them have never even had a contact offense.

Before you judge what should be done about alleged SOs, you have to TRUST that the law and the judicial system is correctly categorizing them. This is not even remotely the case. The fallout from this is that the lives of SOs -- and their own families -- are being ruined by labels, restrictions, and even persecution.

Let me ask you... have any of you thought about the children of the alleged SOs? Yes... some of them are quite happily married with normal families. Families that understand what really happened in a crime rather than what the SO was coerced into pleading "guilty" to. Have you thought about those wives and children and how your "torch and pitchfork" approach affects them? Those victims?

By the way, don't tell me I don't know what I'm talking about. I probably have just a little bit more information on this than you do. And I believe the good Chief knows that he is required by law to keep track of people who aren't really much of a danger to anyone. Isn't that so, Chief?

Anonymous said...

I agree, most of the sex offender laws do not work, they are mainly a placebo to pacify the public from the fear propagated by the media and politicians for ratings and votes.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for your words. Too many people automatically hear "Sex Offender" and think creepy pervert that prays on children. The truth is, one can receive that damaging label, just by peeing in public! There are many that were victims of another kind of predator...girls lying about their age. The guy gets labeled forever, and his freedom and life are gone.