National City has become the latest California city to face a lawsuit from a registered San Luis Obispo County sex offender over its sex-offender regulations. Frank Lindsay, 61, of Grover Beach, contends such local ordinances are superseded by Jessica’s Law, the 2006 measure adopted by California voters.
Among the provisions of Jessica’s Law is a prohibition on registered sex offenders living within 2,000 feet of any school or park. It was named for Jessica Lunsford, a Florida girl who was raped and murdered by a previously convicted sex offender.
Many communities, including National City, have adopted even more restrictive laws of their own. With the assistance of attorney Janice Bellucci — who says society must accept that sex offenders still have civil liberties — Lindsay has been making headway in going after these laws. In January, a state appellate court struck down separate measures adopted by Irvine and Orange County that required sex offenders to gain formal government permission before entering city or county parks. “The state intended to fully occupy the field of regulating registered sex offenders,” the appeals court ruled.
But instead of fighting Lindsay’s lawsuit, National City and other local cities that face similar challenges need a moment of clarity: What do they hope to achieve with sex-offender regulations?
Is the goal making sex offenders’ lives as miserable as possible? Or is it to reduce the likelihood that they will commit new sex crimes?
If it is the former, then fighting for Megan’s Law and even stricter local ordinances makes sense. If the goal is the latter, then these laws make no sense at all.
Setting up residency restrictions that make it difficult and in some cases impossible for sex offenders to stay with their families and to find work “contradicts decades of criminological research identifying factors associated with successful offender reintegration” into society, according to University of Louisville professor Richard Tewksbury and other authorities on sex-offender rehabilitation.
The released sex offender with a job, stable housing and supportive people in his life is far less a threat to the community than a sex offender who is a jobless transient kept from his family.
We understand where National City Mayor Ron Morrison is coming from when he told a U-T reporter that he hoped his city’s ordinance stayed in place: “If you are a registered predatory sex offender on children, I am sorry, you don’t get all your rights.”
We suspect the vast majority of the public shares this sentiment, which is why Jessica’s Law passed in a landslide. We also understand why folks would bristle at Bellucci’s characterization of this issue as being about civil liberties.
But if the goal is to avoid more tragedies like Jessica Lunsford’s, Californians need to think clearly and get past the bluster and demagoguery sometimes seen on public-safety issues. If existing laws make sex crimes more likely, they should be changed.
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
CA - When sex-offender laws promote more crimes