The ACLU recently filed a complaint in Florida stating that a Miami Dade County ordinance that forbids convicted sex offenders from living within 2,500 feet of schools violates the constitutional ban against depriving people of liberty without due process of law.
ACLU attorney Brandon Busky said that the ordinance has forced registered sex offenders to live in tent cities on the outskirts of town, with no protection from the elements or random violence. He contends that the restriction makes it difficult for sex offenders to find suitable housing, work, report to counseling, and to be properly supervised, and this is causing them to be more likely to re-offend. 1
Is California Different than Florida?
California Welfare and Institutions Code Section 6608.5 (f) states that a person convicted of improper sexual conduct with a minor under
- Penal Code section 288 (a), (b), or (c)(1) 2
- Penal Code section 288.5
- Or with a history of sexual misconduct with children
may not live within a distance of one-quarter mile of a school for children in grades kindergarten through 12. The rule doesn’t state how the distance is to be measured, but a recent court ruling sets the method for measurement at a quarter mile radius as the crow flies around school boundaries. 3 This is the strictest method of measurement possible, and it severely curtails housing options available for convicted sex offenders upon conditional release from prison.
In People v. Christman, the recent case where the method of measurement was decided, the Department of State Hospitals was having a problem finding suitable housing for Charles Christman, pending his release. The search for housing had to be expanded to surrounding counties after the Department could not find a place available that complied with housing restrictions in San Francisco County.
When they finally did find suitable housing for Christman in Contra Costa County, it was near a school, but could be considered suitable using a pedestrian route to measure the quarter mile radius. The housing was finally ruled unsuitable on appeal, based on the measurement of a quarter mile radius as the crow flies around the borders of the school. This case demonstrates the extreme difficulties of finding housing for registered sex offenders.
What is the Result of these Harsh Restrictions?
The ACLU argues that in order to supervise sex offenders and provide them with the counseling and support necessary to help them rehabilitate and avoid re-offending, they need stability, safety, and gainful employment. How is it possible to monitor somebody if they’re homeless? Being forced into perpetual punishment leaves little reason to abide by the law.
Registered sex offenders face harsh punishment within the penal system, but once an offender has done the time, the punishment should end. It is impossible to monitor the activities and whereabouts of a sex offender if they’re living as a vagrant on the street. Moreover, if a sex offender decides life in prison is preferable to homelessness, that person may re-offend in an effort to go back to prison. If a sex offender re-offends by committing a crime against a minor, the consequences for that child victim could be devastating and will condemn that child to a lifetime of harsh mental and emotional consequences.
What Do You Think?
At Wallin & Klarich, we believe that once a person has served their prison sentence, they should be given a second chance. We believe that leaving people with no hope does not facilitate rehabilitation.
What do you think about this controversial topic? Should sex offenders be restricted from living in certain areas? Are sex offender restrictions too harsh? Please share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.