Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Ely, We Have a Problem

The Ely City Council has adopted an ordinance that restricts where sexual offenders can live. It took the council about 12 minutes Tuesday night to hold a public hearing and unanimously pass the ordinance . . . The local law . . . bans sex offenders from living near city parks, playgrounds and the public library. Ely has no schools or registered day-care centers, raising fears by some residents the town could become a haven for sex offenders forced to move by the state law, said Aaron Anderson, Ely city clerk and administrator. The only areas in Ely not covered by the ordinance are a few undeveloped parcels on the city’s northeast edge, Mayor Dale Stanek said.

So now the entire town of Ely has now utterly banished sex offenders, with the exception of a few undeveloped parcels on the edge of town. What's to stop the rest of us from doing the same? We've expanded it to parks and the public library. Okay, how about video arcades? Shopping malls? Lots of kids there. The McDonalds? Kids are practically lured there with cartoon characters, shouldn't that be a sex-offender no-zone?

My point: We need to keep kids safe from molesters and violent sex offenders. We should do everything that is constitutionally permissible and reasonably likely to actually work. But if we legislatively try to keep SO's from living within 2000 feet of anywhere the kids might be there will be very few places they can live, which gives us a real constitutional problem. It seems to create a modern leper colony. And of course, none of that stops them from getting in the car and zipping over a few blocks to where the school is and stalking little Susie anyway.

The Iowa Supreme Court ruling on the issue is here, the 8th Circuit ruling is here, and there's an interesting constitutionality debate that starts on Prawfsblawg, moves to Crescat Sententia, and ends back at Prawfsblawg. Be sure to read the comments. There's also an analysis at Sentencing Law and Policy, and some good posts here, here and here on Crime & Federalism.

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