Sunday, February 7, 2010

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"The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly." - Abraham Lincoln



NH - Bills split on residency rules for sex offenders

Original Article

02/07/2010

By AARON SANBORN

A hearing on a proposed law that would ban sex offender residency restrictions like those the city of Dover once had is slated for Wednesday in the state House of Representatives.

Meanwhile, a bill proposing the opposite — to create statewide residency restrictions — also is coming before lawmakers Wednesday.

House Bill 1484 would prohibit any political subdivision of the state from adopting an ordinance or bylaw that restricts the residence of a sex offender or an offender against children.

State Rep. Beth Rood (Email), D-Bradford, proposed the bill in response to a District Court ruling regarding Dover's former ordinance, City Code 131-20, which prohibited all registered sex offenders from living within 2,500 feet of a school or day care center.

Judge Mark Weaver ruled the ordinance unconstitutional in August following a 2008 challenge by the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union. The NHCLU filed a motion to dismiss the ordinance on behalf of registered sex offender Richard Jennings.

"If it's illegal in Dover, it should be illegal in other places," Rood said.
- And if something is ruled unconstitutional for one man/woman, it should be unconstitutional for all men/woman!

The proposed bill already has passed out of committee and will be before the House Wednesday.

Rood said there was overwhelming testimony in favor of her bill from law enforcement officials, children's groups, and officials at the state Attorney General's Office during a committee meeting last month.

"They were unanimous in supporting the bill," she said. "The reason is that when you have residency requirements, it discourages people from registering, because they have to live someplace."

Rood said such restrictions also could prevent sex offenders from living with their families, which would disrupt their rehabilitation and perhaps increase their risk of offending again.

"The feeling is there's more danger with unregistered sex offenders in the community than with registered offenders," Rood said.

Meanwhile, HB 1442-FN, which would bar offenders against children from living within 2,000 feet of a public or nonpublic elementary or secondary school or a child care facility anywhere in the state, also heads to the floor Wednesday.

Lawmakers backing the measure say they are ready to push ahead with it despite the downfall of Dover's ordinance, calling the new law necessary in order to protect children.

"We protect schools from cigarette smoking, we protect schools with no-gun zones," said State Rep. Alfred Baldasaro (Email), R-Londonderry, the bill's primary sponsor. "But why aren't we protecting schools from sexual predators?"
- The law is about further punishing sex offenders, and not all sex offenders are predators!

He said a recent issue in his town involving a sexual predator moving near an elementary school led him to propose the bill. He said he also is concerned about the number of sex offenders moving to the state.
- Was he/she really a predator or just someone with the sex offender label?

"The state list is growing and growing every year; they're coming from all over the country," he said. "It would be a shame if we don't do this. This is about protecting our kids."

State Rep. Nancy Elliott (Email), R-Merrimack, is co-sponsoring Baldasaro's bill, which she said makes "good common sense."

"Children should be safe walking to and from school and on school grounds," she said. "To put children in front of a convicted child sex offender is irresponsible."
- Never in history has children been "safe" walking to school.  If anybody wanted to harm them, they could.  You are safe nowhere.

Under Baldasaro's bill, an offender who lives within 2,000 feet of one of these locations after the law is passed would be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.
- You see, the law is about offenders in general, but above everyone is using the word "predator!"  Not all sex offenders are predators.

The bill hasn't been heavily supported within its committee, and like Dover's ordinance, has come under opposition from the NHCLU.

NHCLU Attorney Barbara Keshen led the charge against the Dover ordinance and testified in favor of HB1484 and against HB1442-FN at a recent committee hearing in Concord.

Keshen has argued that there is no proof such residency restrictions are effective, and that in some cases, they may drive sex offenders underground, meaning they won't report their addresses to police as required.

"Laws that restrict where registered sex offenders may reside are not only bad public policy, but they are also unconstitutional," she added.

She said the Dover ordinance violated Jennings' right to equal protection under the law.

"Protecting children from predators is an important government objective. No one would argue otherwise," she said. "But, importantly, the court found that the ordinance was not likely to advance that objective. The court noted that the ordinance restricted how close a sex offender could live to a school or day care center, but did not otherwise prevent a sex offender from otherwise being near a school or day care center."
- This is another problem. Even the NHCLU is misusing the term predator and offender.

Given what happened in Dover, Keshen said she would be surprised if HB1442-FN passed the House.

Dover Police Chief Anthony Colarusso said it's difficult to use statistics to weigh whether or not residency restrictions are effective.

For example, a city could have 10 registered sex offenders living in the city one year before passing an ordinance, and the same amount or more the next year after passing the ordinance. What those numbers don't tell you is whether having the ordinance prevented someone from moving near a school and committing a crime against a child.

"How do you know that you didn't prevent something?" he asked. "It's hard to prove, and that's the issue."

He added that his department had no issues enforcing the ordinance when the city had it, and those sex offenders who violated it, such as Jennings, were charged with a violation-level offense.

"I always thought of the ordinance as another tool in the tool box," he said.
- Well, you can always have too many tools also.

He added that "the intent is not to restrict people's freedoms. The intent is to protect the more vulnerable victims."
- So how does it protect victims?  If a sex offender is forced to live out in the country, or away from someone, they could still harm someone, if they wanted to.  They have feet or a car.

He said one thing most people can agree on is that many sex offenders do reoffend and the challenge is identifying the type of offender that is likely to reoffend and preventing it from happening.
- Um, no, that is not true.  Many studies show sex offenders have the lowest recidivism rates of any other criminal, except murderers.  So do we have residency restrictions for all the other criminals who have higher recidivism rates?  No!  Why? Also, by your own statements, you said "many sex offenders do reoffend," then you go on to say "the challenge is identifying the type of offender that is likely to reoffend!"  Now, didn't you just say "many sex offenders reoffend?"  Which we know is not true.  But with your on words, apparently it's not a challenge to figure it out, because you've made your mind up already, not based on facts but personal feelings, that "all sex offenders reoffend!" This is nothing but double speak!

Baldasaro said what happened in Dover doesn't concern him or affect his efforts to get HB1442-FN passed.

State Rep. Mary Griffin, R-Windham, who also is co-sponsoring the bill, said she expected opposition and can understand the civil rights arguments that come with any bill that would restrict where someone can live.

But with so many sex offenders reoffending, Griffin said, there must be a way for both sides to come together and protect children.
- This is a lie.  Many sex offenders are not reoffending.  Many have committed one crime, and continually get rearrested on stupid technicalities, which is not due to another sex crime being committed.  You people continue to distort the facts.  Why?

"I can see all sides of the story, but a child's life is so precious," she said. "I hope we can stem the tide that's coming and work together to solve this problem."
- I agree, crimes of any nature are bad, and we all agree we need to protect people in general, but you apparently do not want to "work together," because you continually ignore experts and facts!


"The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly." - Abraham Lincoln