Wednesday, February 23, 2011

AR - Panel advances tougher Arkansas sex offender rules

Original Article



LITTLE ROCK - A House committee passed a bill Tuesday tightening restrictions on sex offenders at moderate risk of reoffending, despite testimony from prison officials who said the tougher rules could send offenders underground and make them less likely to report to local law enforcement and get treatment.

The bill would bar Level 2 sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school, public park, youth center or day care facility. Currently, only Level 3 and Level 4 offenders, who are believed to be the most likely to commit more crimes, have those restrictions.

The purpose of this bill is simply to protect our children,” said Rep. Karen Hopper, R-Mountain Home. She noted it would only apply to Level 2 offenders who were at least 18 years old and whose victims were 14 years old or younger.

Baxter County Sheriff John Montgomery supported the bill, saying it would allow authorities to keep a closer eye on sex offenders who have been released from prison. He acknowledged the portion who commit more crimes is low but said that shouldn’t keep lawmakers from supporting Hopper’s bill.

My argument would be it’s because they’re watched. They’re watched, they’re labeled, they’re put on the website. Everywhere they go people, hopefully, know who they are,” Montgomery said.

About 3,000 of Arkansas’ 10,500 sex offenders have been classified as Level 2. About half of them would be affected by the bill.

Arkansas Correction Department spokeswoman Dina Tyler said the bill could have the unintended consequence of making it harder for police to find the offenders. To back up her point, she cited studies done in three states.

The latest research shows that residency restrictions don’t help. And in some instances, in many instances, they may actually make things worse because what they do is ... push sex offenders farther into the shadows, into the hinterlands,” Tyler said.

Restrictions have left the prison system with 1,400 inmates — sex offenders and other criminals — who can’t find a place to live even though they qualify for parole. The sex offenders alone who can’t find a residence cost the state $1 million per year, she said.

David B. Eberhard, director of the state Community Correction Department, backed up Tyler’s comments.

This is going to adversely affect our ability to find housing” for sex offenders up for release, Eberhard said.

Little Rock attorney Jeff Rosenzweig, president of the Arkansas Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, reminded the committee that similar bills failed in 2007 and 2009. The bill would allow Level 2 sex offenders who already own homes to stay in them even if the homes don’t meet the requirements. But Rosenzweig said offenders who aren’t homeowners would have to move.

If you’re a renter, you’re screwed under this bill,” Rosenzweig said.

John Wesley Hall Jr., a past president of the defense lawyers’ organization, said the bill would result in more crime by discouraging sex offenders from getting supervision.

Tyler also said many small towns have no housing that isn’t within 2,000 feet of a school or a park, which would force offenders to move to bigger communities where they’re not as easily watched.

We don’t want them in the shadows,” she said.

There was no roll call on the committee’s vote, which included a number of “no” votes. Committee Chairman Rep. Darrin Williams, D-Little Rock, declared that a majority had voted in favor of a “do pass” recommendation.


Thrdchance said...

Rep. Karen Hopper, (R-Mountain Home) you have done nothing since you have been in office except collect an unearned and undeserving paycheck. If you pull your head out of that dark hole located in your postierior side, you would have done your home work and your job and realized the best way to protect children is by educating them and helping ex offenders get jobs so they have a location to be found. But what can we expect from a constiuant who has done nothing since you were elected. See people - another politician exploiting our children for their own greedy selfish purpose - re-election.

Lance Martinez said...

It is always a sad day when government focuses on a specific group of people. Let us not forget that 95 - 97% of sex crimes committed by sex offenders are family related or close friends of the family. The percentage of offenders who reoffend represent approximately 2 - 3% of the offender population. So you punish the few with stricter laws and pay less attention to those who truly need restructuring; the predator. Then why focus on sex offenders anyway. What about gang violence or burglaries and homicide. And the worst of the worst drug pushers, drug kingpins and the like. What about water rights or harmful genetically designed foods? There is so much else that needs to be done for the community, don't you think?

SOIssues said...

Email sent to us via Sheriff John Montgomery (from what the email says):


Arkansas House of Representatives will vote tomorrow, Monday on HB1408 which further restricts sex offenders from living next to schools, parks and day cares.

shawn. said...

Why bother applying a risk level at all ? If a risk level 2 is treated like a risk level 4 , society already see's a sex offender as a sex offender . It's hard enough to find employment or,anyone who will except them and, a decent place to live.
But if you want to keep them at the bottom they will adapt .
There are children on every street in every town on this planet.
How come no one considers that ? look at the sat's most sexual act's that happen to children happen out side of schools,day cares or playgrounds. it happens in there own home on there own street. So why not just shoot them in there head ? next it'll be they cant live in the city or town limits. A lot of level 2 offenders don't commit sexual acts against or to children. not all sex offenders are child molesters . Closed minded and ignorant .
educate your self on the facts of where the victims became a victim before you go wasting hundreds of thousands of tax payer dollars . oh and by the way , what happens if and when the law changes when the unemployed sex offender cant afford to relocate ?

john herndon said...

my name is john herndon and I am a level 3 sex offender even though I fit none of the criteria for that level. my crime was in 1995, I photographed a 15 and 16 year old girl, a probationary offense. I received 20 years because judge bogard said I showed no remorse for my crime. my attorney reminded judge bogard that my entire 250 word statement in court was an apology. he ignored the attorney. so much for the sentencing guidelines and true justice. I am also ph.d abd in rehabilitation counseling and administration from the university of Arkansas at Fayetteville (all I say is a matter of record). my point being that I can tell you an an educated perspective that megan's law is one of the most harmful laws in our nation's history, and one of the most expensive to administer. 90% of registration levels are grossly overdone. registration in Arkansas says they do this to "cover their bases". I had never committed a crime in my life when I photographed the girls and would not have photographed them at all had I not been given too strong a dose of Zoloft - notorious for causing people to do things they would ordinarily not do and ruining their lives. my point to readers is that restricting sex offenders in a hope to curb their wrong doing is a myth