Sunday, April 19, 2009

TX - Why not just tattoo their foreheads and be done with it?

Courtesy of Grits For Breakfast

If you read this bill, they are going to put "RSO" in black ink, on the back of all identification cards of sex offenders.

04/19/2009

Drivers licenses are the wrong place to try to solve unrelated social problems, and here's a good example why.

On Monday, the House Public Safety Committee will hear legislation - HB 1091 by Rep. Tan Parker (Contact) - that would identify sex offenders as such on their drivers licenses. How will this prevent sex crimes, exactly? Does anyone really think a sex offender will show their victim their personal identification before assaulting or molesting them?

The goal of this bill and much of other legislation aimed at sex offenders these days isn't to protect the public so much as to impose permanent pariah status on those convicted of sex crimes. Many people might agree with that goal, but in practice the labels are sometimes unfairly applied to lesser offenses, and the recent string of DNA exonerations has revealed quite a few actually innocent people who'd been falsely convicted are also harmed by such quasi-official shunning policies.

What's more, as a practical matter, if sex offenders can't find any place to live, work, or even shop, this state-sponsored scarlet letter makes the public less safe because the risk is they'll give up trying to do the right thing and start committing the offenses that got them in trouble in the first place. Why does every store clerk who takes a check need to know somebody is on the sex offender list? IMO that would create more problems than it solves.

Unless you prefer more unlicensed drivers on the road, it's counterproductive to single out unpopular categories of drivers with special denotations on their license that are identifiable by the general public, whether we're talking about sex offenders or immigrants. In both cases the tactic borders on an invitation to needless harassment of licenseholders; indeed, that almost appears to be the point.


FL - County looks to protect neighborhood from sex offenders

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04/14/2009

By Scott Wyman

Sex offenders will be at least temporarily barred from moving into a neighborhood that has become a haven amid growing living restrictions across South Florida.

Broadview Park is a small working class neighborhood no larger than a square mile, yet it’s home to 5 percent of all sexual offenders in Broward. Under the temporary rules, sex offenders cannot move to a home within 2,500 feet of a school, day care center, park, bus stop or playground in any unincorporated area.
- If it's not a law, but some "temporary rules" then how can they enforce it?

Sex offenders and civil liberty advocates argued that a permanent ban would leave those convicted of crimes virtually nowhere to live in the tri-county area.

Both Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties have 2,500-foot restrictions and 26 of Broward’s 31 cities have residency limits greater than what’s set in state law. The majority of Broward cities extend the no-live zone to 2,000 feet or more from places where children congregate.

County commissioners agreed to create a task force to look at long-term answers to issue of where sex offenders live. They also said they will petition Gov. Charlie Crist (Email) to find a statewide answer to the question.
- Good, they should have a statewide law, instead of every single town making their own laws.

What we really are dealing with here is an unintended concentration of sexual offenders in our unincorporated neighborhoods, and that is unacceptable,” Commissioner Kristin Jacobs said.
- What?  It's only common sense, not some unintended consequence, when the state makes laws, that force offenders out and into certain areas.  They will move into certain areas, so you can expect more.

Fewer than 10,000 residents live in the small pockets of Broward that remain outside city limits. Broadview Park – bordered by State Road 7 on the east, Florida's Turnpike on the west, Peters Road on the north and Interstate 595 on the south – is the largest.

The rules of where sex offenders can live in those communities fall under state law unless the County Commission acts. The state law bars offenders from living within 1,000 feet of places where children may congregate.

Commissioner John Rostrom, who represents Broadview Park, proposed a permanent restriction for the unincorporated area. But Commissioner Lois Wexler suggested the task force, saying the living restrictions create a false sense of security and that such other ideas as an anti-loitering law may be better.
- And why is that?  Because it may stop others from moving into the town, and make property values go down?  So you are, IMO, protecting your own butt.


NJ - License tag law gets court test

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No, the plate on the left is not real, it's something I added RSO to.  It's just another Scarlett Letter for sex offenders to shame and humiliate!

04/19/2009

A New Jersey law that will require drivers younger than 21 to display identifying decals on their vehicle license plates is being challenged in court.

Attorney Gregg D. Trautmann of Rockaway called the law ridiculous and unconstitutional and is suing to overturn the law.

Gov. Jon S. Corzine signed the measure, known as "Kyleigh's Law," on Wednesday.
- Yet another child memorialized, by naming a law after them.  This kind of crap has to stop.  Who would shoot down a law with some kids name attached to it?  They could pass a law removing all your rights, and name it after some child, and legislature would pass it, because of a name attached to it.

Corzine called it an important tool to help police enforce safety restrictions for novice drivers. They include passenger limits and a night driving curfew.
- No, that is a cover to eradicating yet more people's right to privacy, etc!

However, Trautmann claims in his suit that the decals would serve as magnets for police to pull over young people and would let others, including sex offenders, easily identify and victimize teens.


Child abductions by strangers actually rare

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Another Related Article

04/18/2009

By Tom McNiff

Crime wasn't an issue in tiny Benton, the southern Illinois town where Regina Freeman grew up.

"Two murders in 20 years," Freeman says wistfully, and one of them was the result of a drunken brawl.

The other, she says, was committed by the unlikeliest of suspects: a friendly young man who lived near the local middle school and handed out candy to boys and girls passing by on their way home.

The man, _____, sexually assaulted and strangled a 12-year-old girl from Freeman's school and left her body in an abandoned home. _____ was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

As awful as it was, the incident didn't deter Freeman and her friends from exploring their small town. They continued to venture far from home to visit friends or the corner store, out of sight of parents.

Now 39 and a mother of two preschoolers in Gainesville, Freeman ponders the dangers her children face and doubts they'll have the same freedom to roam that she did as they get older.

There is no doubt in her mind that the world in 2009 is a more dangerous place to be a child.
- I don't think it's more dangerous, it's just more is reported, so it makes it look like we are in more danger.

For her, incidents like the disappearance of Haleigh Cummings from her home near Palatka and the abductions of Jessica Lunsford in Citrus County and Carlie Brucia in Sarasota are sobering reminders that predators lurk everywhere.

"It was nothing for me to walk five or six blocks to the store," she says. "Nowadays, I say there's no way my child is walking five or six blocks anywhere."

But Freeman's fear belies two important facts that experts have known for years.

First, violent crimes against children have declined steadily over the past generation. The U.S. Department of Justice reports that 81 out of every 1,000 children between the ages of 12 and 15 were victims of violent crime in 1973, compared with 44 out of 1,000 in 2005.

And, second, the worst of those crimes - kidnappings, rapes and murders - are being committed not by strangers hunting innocents but by family members, neighbors or trusted adults the family knows.

In fact, the kidnappings of Carlie and Jessica by complete strangers, while terrifyingly sinister, are fairly rare events, representing only about one in every 2,900 abduction cases.

The most recent survey of kidnapping data conducted in 2002 for the U.S. Justice Department revealed that of the roughly 261,000 children who are abducted each year, the vast majority (203,900) are taken by a family member - often in a custody dispute - and just 90 to 115 are victims of "stereotypical kidnappings" like Carlie and Jessica.

The two U.S. Department of Justice studies mentioned are:

1) "Children Abducted by Family Members: National Estimates and Characteristics"

2) "Nonfamily Abducted Children: National Estimates and Characteristics"

Note: "Stereotypical Kidnappings" occur only in nonfamily abductions see:

Key Findings:

--During the study year, there were an estimated 115 stereotypical kidnappings, defined as abductions perpetrated by a stranger or slight acquaintance and involving a child who was transported 50 or more miles, detained overnight, held for ransom or with the intent to keep the child permanently, or killed.

--In 40 percent of stereotypical kidnappings, the child was killed, and in another 4 percent, the child was not recovered.

--There were an estimated 58,200 child victims of nonfamily abduction, defined more broadly to include all nonfamily perpetrators (friends and acquaintances as well as strangers) and crimes involving lesser amounts of forced movement or detention in addition to the more serious crimes entailed in stereotypical kidnappings.
 

A stereotypical kidnapping, according to the survey, known as the National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway and Thrownaway Children (NISMART), is committed by a stranger or slight acquaintance. In these cases, the child is kept overnight, transported at least 50 miles, held for ransom, abducted with the intention of keeping the child permanently, or killed.

The remaining 58,000 or so abductions that occur annually are known as "nonfamily abductions," which occur when someone other than the child's family detains the child for a short period of time.

To many law enforcement agencies, these don't even qualify as abductions because the act of detaining the child is incidental to the primary crime, usually sexual abuse.

Often, the perpetrators of nonfamily abductions are people in a position of trust: neighbors, Scout leaders, friends of the family or even clergy.

That was the case with 13-year-old Sarah Lunde of Tampa, who was abducted and murdered in April 2005 by _____.

_____ had been in a relationship with the girl's mother.

Yet the idea of a child being dragged off to be tortured, raped and murdered by a stranger is so terrifying and so well reported in the news media that parents, educators, even law enforcement officers and politicians, have accepted as fact that stranger abductions are more commonplace than they actually are.

"Those are the ones that capture the public's imagination, and they should because they're awful" says Jim Beasley, supervisory special agent for the FBI and a specialist in crimes against children. "But because they hear the story told over and over, people tend to forget that this is the same incident."

But who are these kidnappers? The FBI and researchers have spent a great deal of time looking for answers.

Unlike run-of-the-mill child molesters who don't fit a single profile, true child abductors share many traits, Beasley says.
- How can a child molester be a "run-of-the-mill" when they fit no single profile?  Sounds like double-speak to me.

They are, in overwhelming numbers, male. They tend to abduct children of their own race. They are loners who have trouble forging and maintaining stable relationships because they have below-average social skills. When they abduct children, it's almost always for sexual gratification.

And their crimes are generally committed on impulse, Beasley says. While the child molester works at gaining his victim's trust and has a plan for releasing them, the kidnapper often finds himself in a situation that is spinning out of control, panics and kills the child within hours of the abduction.

This creates a quandary for law enforcement, Beasley says. They must treat kidnappings as stranger abductions and launch an intense search in hopes of recovering the child quickly, but also focus intently on the more likely culprits: family, friends and acquaintances.

David Finkelhor, co-author of the NISMART report on missing children, says the danger in drawing so much public attention to relatively uncommon stranger abductions is that parents, law enforcement and politicians may fail to see the greater threat living next door or sitting in the family tree.

"It's hard for us to simultaneously trust those people in our social networks and be on guard against them," Finkelhor said. "It doesn't come as easily as girding yourself against the unknown predator."

Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, agrees. The center has worked in recent years to retool the stranger-danger method of identifying predators taught in schools and in homes and broaden the public's definition of kidnapper and child molester.

Allen said various studies show that children associate the word "stranger" with someone who is menacing in appearance, leaving them vulnerable to predators who are familiar or appear kindly.

"The message to not take candy from strangers is not a bad message, but it's incomplete," Allen said, "because the people who really represent the greatest threat to our children are not going to be identified by our children as a stranger."

The more effective strategy, he said, is to teach children what behaviors by adults are inappropriate.

Freeman, the Gainesville mother of two, is already working on that. Beyond the usual prohibitions against getting in cars with strangers and letting adults touch their bodies, she is trying to nurture her children's instinct to "trust your belly."

And while Freeman's overreactions amuse her husband - she was ready to dial 911 recently when her son hid from her at bedtime even though all the windows and doors were locked - she makes no apologies for her protective nature.

"I think it's better to be safe than sorry," she said, "I'd rather know that I've done everything I could possibly do to protect them."


IL - Senate approves Dillard's sex offender legislation

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04/19/2009

The Illinois Senate has approved a bill that would require all sex offenders to register with their county sheriff. S.B. 1702 was initiated by the Illinois Sheriffs' Association and sponsored by state Sen. Kirk Dillard (Email, Contact), R-Hinsdale.

Currently, sex offenders in incorporated areas are required to register with the chief of police, while only sex offenders in unincorporated areas register with the county sheriff.

The bill would establish a more uniform way of keeping tabs on sex offenders and would reduce the burden on some municipalities, Dillard said.

According to Greg Sullivan, executive director of the Illinois Sheriffs' Association, the bill would reduce the number of locations where sex offenders must register from about 1,100 to 102 locations.

The requirement would not apply to Chicago. Sex offenders who live in Chicago would continue to register with the Chicago Police Department.


TX - Gov. Perry Backs Resolution Affirming Texas’ Sovereignty Under 10th Amendment

Isn't it hypocritical of these folks to NOW want to talk about the constitution, when they have been ignoring constitutional rights for many decades now, of sex offenders and others. Now they want to bitch and moan! Yep, nothing but hypocrites!


VT - Putting laws to the test

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04/19/2009

By BRENT CURTIS

While three Vermont communities prepare to defend local laws defining where sex offenders can live, key cases have been fought - even at the federal level - and precedents have been set.

Nationwide, federal courts have shot down constitutional arguments that residency laws prohibiting sex offenders from living in certain areas violate an individual's rights.

"At the federal level, it's been almost a complete loss," said Corey Rayburn Yung, assistant professor at the John Marshall Law School in Chicago. "At the state level, it can be harder to judge, and I don't know all of the cases. But they've sustained challenges in a number of states."

"The key rationale that the courts hone in on is that these laws aren't punitive, they're regulatory with penalties that are civil in nature," Yung said.
- Yeah, and a weak excuse as well.  Why don't some of those making these laws, and in the state and federal courts, live with the same restrictions for a year or two, then tell me it's not punishment.

Challenges linked to state law have had more traction and some observers wonder how courts in Vermont, where the state's constitution has been interpreted as being more protective of an individual's rights, will weigh in on the issue.

An answer to that question could come soon.

Child safety ordinances in Barre and Rutland, where certain types of sex offenders are prohibited from living with 1,000 feet of establishments such as schools and playgrounds, are on the verge of going to court.

Barre passed its ordinance first last summer, with Rutland only about a month behind. The ordinances vary somewhat in regards to what kinds of sex offenders are affected and what sorts of establishments they are prohibited from living near.

But their common effect has been to exclude large swaths of both cities as potential places for affected sex offenders to live.
- They make it impossible to live almost anywhere, and in the small areas they can live, the mob comes out with the pitch forks, and then they are basically forced to live under bridges.

In Rutland last week, a lawsuit challenging the city's ordinance was filed by an incarcerated sex offender hoping to return to the city. That complaint, filed by _____, a 37-year-old convicted arsonist is on the state's sex offender registry for a 1991 conviction of lewd and lascivious conduct with a child.

The lawsuit filed pro se by _____, who is still an inmate at the South Burlington prison, has not been made public yet because all parties in the case have not been served.

In Barre, no legal challenge has been made yet, but resident and registered sex offender _____ has promised one.

Unlike the ordinance in Rutland which targets only child sex offenders, the law in Barre restricts residency for anyone on the sex offender registry. _____, who has said he was convicted of having sex with a 15-year-old girl when he was 19 years of age, has said the city's ordinance punishes his wife and child for a crime he already was punished for.

Legal challenges have long been anticipated in both communities where officials said this week that the ordinances were drafted with resiliency in mind.

In Rutland, city attorney Andrew Costello said he did his homework when he drafted the four-page ordinance last summer.

"We were confident when it was brought up that there would be a challenge," he said. "That's why we looked at the merits of these ordinances when we first got into it."

What the research revealed, he said, was that the majority of legal challenges against residency ordinances were defeated.
- Defeated because the Constitution is not worth the paper and ink it's written with!

As an added precaution, Costello said the Rutland ordinance was drafted to affect only a narrow portion of the sex offender population and it allowed child sex offenders living within restricted zones before the law took effect to remain in their homes.
- So when are they going to look at the facts that where someone lives, has nothing to do with if or when they will re-offend.  It has nothing to do with this fact.  It's all about banishment and punishment, plain and simple!

In Barre, Mayor Thom Lauzon said the drafters in his city spent a lot of time too researching how to build a residency ordinance that would last.

"We looked at the ones that worked and the ones that didn't and we looked at when they were struck down, why they were struck down," Lauzon said.

The work done by the drafters led to a number of changes, including the size of the restricted zones - which were originally larger - and the type of establishments they would be centered on. Originally, Lauzon said the city's schools, recreation areas and daycares would have triggered the law's 1,000-foot restricted area. But after looking at what little room would have been left in the city for sex offenders to call home, day cares were removed from the list.

"We didn't want a defacto banishment," Lauzon said. "We tried to craft something that had that in mind."

Whether those safeguards will stand the legal test remains to be seen, but they're resiliency derives in part from the fact that they derive their authority from zoning bylaws, according to Florida State University College of Law Associate Dean Wayne Logan.

"It's the same thing as saying you can't put an adult book store in a certain neighborhood," Logan said. "That's the justification and the fulcrum. It's the same argument for taking of use that you have with zoning."

That basis has allowed residency laws to survive challenges in states such as Georgia and Florida where Logan said the laws are so "draconian" that police have had a hard time finding places to release offenders where they wouldn't be violating the law.

But in a few states, such as New Jersey, residency laws adopted by local municipalities have been nullified after state courts found them to be in opposition with state law, Wade said.

"It's an issue of pre-emption," he said. "State law trumps local ordinances."

That incompatibility is one of the primary arguments that Barbara Keshen is hoping will overturn residency ordinances in two New Hampshire communities.

Keshen, a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union in New Hampshire, said when her organization challenged the city of Dover's residency law last year, the argument that the state of New Hampshire already oversees and manages the sex offender population - not Dover - was one of two arguments she said have the best chance of prevailing.

The other high percentage argument in the case, which remains under review by a Dover District Court judge, is that Dover, and other communities in the state, lack explicit authority under state statute to create residency laws in the first place.

"They're the two arguments that I think will have the most success even though they're the least sexy," she said.

The other arguments the ACLU in New Hampshire have made lie along Constitutional lines, including an argument that in cases where the government seeks to regulate a specific class of individuals, it needs a compelling reason to do so.

Residency restrictions don't meet that test, Keshen said, because statistics from other states where similar laws have existed for years indicate that the restrictions do little or no good and create unintended consequences.

"They actually make a community less safe by destabilizing the sex offender population," she said. "In many cases, these laws drive offenders underground."

In Vermont, ACLU executive director Allen Gilbert said he's been thinking about potential legal challenges for the ordinances since they were passed last summer. _____ had said he planned to talk to the ACLU about challenging Barre's ordinance, but Gilbert said this week that he couldn't comment on possible cases the organization might bring.

That said, he didn't have a problem talking about potential legal strategies.

Like Keshen, Gilbert said the ordinances could be challenged on the ground that they pre-empt authority that the state already exercises over the sex offender population through its registry and monitoring programs.

He also said a legal challenge could be fashioned from the after-the-fact changes the ordinances imposed on plea deals reached with prosecutors.
- Which is a ex post facto law that the Constitution forbids, and they are tearing up contracts that were signed by the courts and the offender.  And that breaks the contracts clause as well.

While the ordinances in Barre and Rutland seek to protect themselves from ex-post facto arguments - essentially the concept of changing the rules after a punishment has been set - by "grandfathering" sex offenders already living in restricted areas, Gilbert said the residency restrictions essentially change the terms for offenders who agreed to plea deals with prosecutors before the ordinances went into effect.

"Plea agreements are often looked at as contracts," he said. "You can't go back later and change a contract. How can you be subjected to penalties put in place after you're convicted?"

Gilbert is also hoping that Constitutional arguments concerning lack of due process, cruel and unusual punishment, taking of property and even first amendment violations could stand up in a Vermont court where he said the state's Constitution places more emphasis on individual liberties than other states.

"There have been a number of different Supreme Court decisions that lay out the importance of individual rights," he said. "A lot of the case law has focused on search and seizure, but some talks about due process."

Gilbert also said any case brought in the state would be bolstered by the recent passage in the Legislature of a bill that frowns on the use of residency restrictions in Vermont.

"The general assembly is very concerned that such policies could have a negative impact on public safety in our rural state by isolating offenders or driving them underground. Densely populated towns and city centers that have ordinances push offenders out into more rural communities where there are fewer opportunities for successful community reintegration and law enforcement supervision," the law reads.


CA - Local rules go even tougher on where registered sex offenders can - and can't - live

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04/18/2009

By Alfred Lee

Trying to avoid becoming dumping grounds for registered sex offenders, area cities are moving to impose even more stringent residency restrictions that those outlined in Jessica's Law.
- Some place has to be a "dumping ground" for offenders!

More than two years after the passage of the statewide law banning registered offenders from living near schools and parks, Arcadia and Pasadena are the most recent local cities considering ordinances that would put nearly all of their territories out of bounds for offenders.

California's passage in 2006 of Proposition 83, more commonly known as Jessica's Law, banned registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of any school or park. But a clause in the law allowed cities to enact their own, stricter restrictions.
- These laws, if enacted, should be on a state level.  Imagine the nightmare you will have, when you continue to have different rules in every single town!

Local officials are concerned about a "race to the bottom," in which cities without harsher housing restrictions risk becoming dumping grounds for the region's sex offenders.

"If you don't enact an ordinance, then the state parole system is more likely to parole sex offenders to your area, and other cities' sex offenders may decide to come to your city because their city has an ordinance and yours doesn't," said Arcadia Police Department Chief Bob Sanderson.
- And thus the never ending shuffle game continues.

That was the reasoning, officials said, behind Palmdale's sex offender ordinance, which extended the restricted distance from 2,000 feet to 3,000 feet and took in school bus stops, video arcades, movie theaters and museums as locations where registered sex offenders cannot live or loiter near.
- Hell, why don't you include gas stations, grocery stores, etc?  Might as well! 

The ordinance also prevents sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of each other.
- And this is insane.  When you force 90% of the county off limits, it's only common sense they are going to live near one another.  But, we don't have much common sense in politics, now do we?

"We didn't want to be that other city that didn't have any restrictions," said Judy Skousen, Palmdale's assistant city attorney.
- Some place has to be "that other city!"

Arcadia leaders will vote next month on an ordinance that would make up to 85 percent of the city off limits to sex offenders. Pasadena is considering a similar ordinance, which will come before the Public Safety Committee on May 4. It, too, would make much of the city legally uninhabitable for registered sex offenders, said Assistant City Attorney Frank Rhemrev.
- So you see, with 85% of the city off limits, common sense would tell you then, that they would move all into the same place.  Then, when that occurs, then that city starts raising hell, and this the cycle continues.  So instead of SOLVING the problem, they are just SHUFFLING it around!

"It would restrict a very, very large portion of Pasadena," he said.

The cities are following Los Angeles County's lead. In January, the Board of Supervisors, on a motion by Supervisor Michael Antonovich, adopted a sex offender ordinance for the county's unincorporated areas.

It effectively leaves 120 square miles of county territory available for sex offenders to live in. By comparison, the county has about 2,600 square miles of unincorporated territory, about 65 percent of the county's total area.
- And how do you think the people who live in this 120 square miles feel about you forcing all sex offenders to live around them?

Other cities, including West Covina, El Monte, Alhambra, Rosemead, Pomona, San Marino and Long Beach adopted increased residency restrictions on sex offenders before the county passed its ordinance, most of them within the past year.
- So if one county has 1000 feet, another 1,500 feet, another 2,000 and another 2,500, eventually the whole state will be off limits.  So why don't you just make a law saying you cannot live in our state?  Then it would be shot down, and you'd be forced to fix it, that is why, and you don't want to work on fixing it. Each county makes their own, pushing sex offenders out and into another county, who then makes their law, and around and around she goes.

Arcadia's ordinance would go several steps further than Jessica's Law by banning sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of locations in addition to schools and parks - such as golf courses, day care centers, tutoring centers, public libraries and swimming pools.

It would also create "child safety zones," banning sex offenders from loitering within 300 feet of the locations, and it would prevent more than one sex offender from living in any single residence.

Cities also are concerned about the state's practice of placing multiple sex offenders in group homes. In response, Long Beach and Alhambra have adopted restrictions on multiple placements.

Some critics of Jessica's Law believe increasingly restrictive housing rules for offenders makes it nearly impossible for the state to place them anywhere in society after they serve their time and are released.

"I do have reservations about it," said Sanderson. "You're in effect creating banishment from society of these registered sex offenders."
- Exactly!  Next they will be starting a concentration camp way out in the desert somewhere.  It's only a matter of time, or else, repeal the laws like should be done!

But Tony Bell, a spokesman for Antonovich, dismissed such concerns. Antonovich's office sent letters to each city council member and city manager in the county, urging them to adopt measures similar to the county's.

"Remember, the impetus needs to be not where the state can place sex offenders, but the impact on the communities where they're placed," said Bell. "It is not our concern, frankly, about where they live. We feel strongly that they should remain in prison."


FL - Tougher laws leave sex offenders with no options

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04/19/2009

By Michael Mayo

Here's where most respectable people want convicted sex offenders to live: Anywhere but near them.

Here's where sex offenders are allowed to live, after a wave of get-tough residency restrictions imposed by South Florida localities: Almost nowhere.

And here's where _____ has lived most of the last six months since being released from prison: Beneath a roadway overpass, overlooking a canal, surrounded by broken glass and forced to sleep with a stick to beat back rats.

Sex offenders don't usually evoke much sympathy, but is this really what we want in a civilized society?

"I'm living like an animal," _____, 46, said last week. "I had it much better in prison."

I first met _____ in December, when he showed off the mattress he fashioned from a piece of Styrofoam that fell off a truck.

I found him again last week, after he was evicted from a flop house for sex offenders in the unincorporated Broadview Park neighborhood.

Following the lead of other cities and counties, Broward County commissioners last week enacted tougher restrictions for unincorporated areas. Sex offenders won't be able to live within 2,500 feet of schools, parks, playgrounds or school bus stops. Current resident offenders might be grandfathered in.

_____, who spent eight years behind bars for a sexual battery on his girlfriend's young daughter he says he didn't commit, is caught in the crossfire.

Longtime Broadview Park residents watched in horror in recent months as the number of sex offenders grew from a few dozen to more than 100. The neighborhood is bordered by State Road 7, Interstate 595 and Florida's Turnpike.

"We don't want this to become Pervert Park," said Lee Charbonneau, who's lived there 10 years.

She told me her story: One night earlier this year, her dog began barking when a Lee County sheriff's cruiser pulled up in her driveway. The deputy wanted to drop off a sex offender who'd been released from jail.

"He had the wrong address," Charbonneau said.

That's how she discovered a haven for sex offenders had sprouted on her block. An enterprising offender from Orlando, Randy Young, bought a foreclosed home. Soon there were 14 people living there.

Young set up other houses in the neighborhood, including a five-bedroom house that crammed in 25 offenders. According to one offender, they each paid $500 a month. After code enforcement became involved, only five offenders live there.
- Talk about exploitation!  25 people in one house?  That is $12,500 in one month, and $150,000 for one years worth of rent.  They do have to live somewhere, though, but, many are without jobs, so how do they pay for this?

_____ spent six weeks at that house but was evicted last week.

_____ said he was steered to the overpass by his probation officer after his Nov. 1 release. A spokeswoman for the state Department of Corrections said probation officers try to assist in finding housing, but there's often no place for offenders to go. "It's a very difficult situation," said Gretl Plessinger.
- And it's all because of the laws passed by the state.  The state has created a new breed of homeless offenders, who have just came out of prison, and are forced into a situation with nothing to lose.  It's only a matter of time, God forbid, that something bad happens.

With more like _____ on the horizon, Broward might soon have its own Bridge of Shame, like the Julia Tuttle Causeway in Miami-Dade, where nearly 60 sex offenders have set up camp.

How this makes us safer, with more desperate people poised to do desperate things, I have no idea.

"It puts the community at great risk," said Lori Butts, a Davie-based psychologist who counsels sex offenders. She said it's time to rethink the Draconian residency restrictions, saying they are counterproductive and give the people a false sense of security, since unsupervised offenders can roam freely during the day.

"It's not about being sympathetic to sex offenders. It's about doing what's best for the community," Butts said.

Broward County Commissioner John Rodstrom said the county is exploring allowing halfway houses in industrial areas.

There has to be a reasonable medium between offenders descending on certain neighborhoods, living 25 to a single-family home, and living beneath bridges like animals.