Georgia relaxes sex offender law

`According to this article, the state of Georgia has eased its residency and work restrictions on sex offenders. Offenders who committed their crime prior to June 4, 2003 will now be allowed to live and work wherever they want to. Prior to this, all registered sex offenders weren’t allowed to live within 1,000 feet of a lot of places, including schools, churches and swimming pools. The 2003 date was chosen because that’s when the law was changed.

Proponents of these restrictions on released sex offenders claim they are not punitive, and the courts seem to have supported them on this. But they seem very punitive to me. You get out of prison and you have a very difficult time finding a place to live because of these restrictions — I read that in Florida they had a bunch of registered sex offenders living under a bridge, not because they didn’t have enough money to buy or rent a proper home but because there was simply nowhere else in the county where they could legally live. And if you do get yourself set up in some residence, even one you own, if they erect a church or whatever within the proscribed distance you’ll have to move. How is this not punitive?

I am highly skeptical as to whether these residency restrictions prevent sex offenses AT ALL. I can kind of understand people who commit serious sex crimes (note the key word “serious,” these days it doesn’t take much to get you on the sex offender list) having to register with the police, or having their names in a public database for people to look up (since a person’s criminal record is generally public anyway), or being prohibited from working with children. It bothers me from a civil liberties standpoint but I can live with it. But I don’t really see how the residency thing helps. It seems like it would, if anything, make people more likely to offend by adding considerable stress to their lives, particularly if they are forced into homelessness.

I don’t think the “tiers” help much either — like, Tier 1 for minor offenses, Tier 3 for really serious ones. Tiers don’t matter to the public at large. Even if you’re only on Tier 1 for urinating in public or statutory rape, all the public is going to hear is “registered sex offender.”

I suppose this stance is not going to make me too popular, as most of the people interested in missing persons are strict law-and-order, lock-em-up-and-throw-away-the-key types. I’m not going to pretend I have much or any sympathy for actual rapists and child molesters and such. But I think a lot of these laws have gone too far with their good intentions.

17 thoughts on “Georgia relaxes sex offender law

  1. Jer July 19, 2010 / 11:43 am

    I think the Sex Offender label should be reserved for actual rapist and child molesters. Not the 18 year old guy who had sex with his 15 year old girlfriend or the 15 year old girl who sends a text message with a naked photo of her self to another 15 year old. If a person is under 18 and takes a photo of themselves and send it to their b/f or g/f, they are not a sex offender. And peeing in public? How is that a sex offense? I suppose that the folks who were riding along for months on the Oregon Trail just held it in until they got to the next fort.

    And I can kind of understand restrictions from living near elementary schools. But churches and swimming pools? That’s ridiculous. I didn’t realize that churches were such hot beds for sex offenses. I went to church with my parents a few months ago and about 90% of the people going in there were over 50. Maybe they’re doing that to keep convicted Catholic priest away or something. And swimming pools? Does that include private pools? Someone might live somewhere and a hotel sets up with a private swimming pool a block away, they might have to move again.

  2. forthelost July 19, 2010 / 2:16 pm

    Besides how ridiculous the restrictions can get, why is it only sex offenders that people are concerned about? There’s no child abuse registries for people convicted of such, or murder registries.

    • Meaghan July 19, 2010 / 2:37 pm

      Just so.

      I have heard that, of all felonies, murder is the one people are least likely to commit twice. But I don’t know if that statistic takes into account the fact that people who commit murder frequently spend decades in jail and simply don’t have the opportunity to commit any crimes.

    • Marcy July 19, 2010 / 2:42 pm

      Actually, there are. Many states have a violent offender registry now, where murderers and the like have to register just like sex offenders. The problem is that the supreme court has reviewed the sex offender registries, but not the violent offender registries (to my knowledge) so they haven’t been enacted everywhere yet.

  3. Jaime July 19, 2010 / 4:21 pm

    I do believe some states have registries that include some child abusers. I read a couple of stories about it in like Reader’s Digest or something. I do believe that unrinating in public can be under some circumstances reprehensible. My 4 year old nephew and 3 year old niece were riding in my car when a young man 15-20 years old came around a bush and then did his business. We were pulling out of one of the entrances to their apartment complex. I pulled out turned around and had their mother call the police. They never did catch the guy. But you bet it was traumatic for my 4 year old nephew. My 3 year old niece didnt see or undrestand as much. The guy did it where it was completely viewable and acted like he didnt have a care in the world. I can understand the thought that the laws are too broad and/or vague but to sit and tell me that public urination doesnt have a traumatic effect on a child has no basis whatsoever.

    • Meaghan July 19, 2010 / 5:44 pm

      If someone urinates in public, by all means cite them for that. I don’t want to see that either. I just don’t think it should be labeled a “sex offense.”

  4. Princess Shantae July 19, 2010 / 5:25 pm

    Somebody told me once that one of the fastest ways to get yourself on death row is to kill somebody in prison. I checked around and theres a mess of people on death row all over for killing guards or their cell mates or whatever and a lot of them were in prison for murder when they did the second killing.
    Somebody else, a teacher I think, told me the biggest thing that will let somebody commit a murder is having done it before. Even if they didn’t get away with it.

    • Meaghan July 19, 2010 / 5:42 pm

      That makes sense. The best indicator for future violence is prior violence. But both stats can be true — that lots of people who are in for murder have done it before, and that few people who commit one murder go on to commit others.

  5. Jaime July 19, 2010 / 7:00 pm

    The Chicago Tribune has a story right now about Illinois’ child abuse registry. Supposedly they are about to drop 28000 names. These regestries can absolutely damage a person’ life/reputation if not properly maintained. I can understand about not having some public indecency people on the sex offender registry especially if they were caught while in the act but had obviously tried to keep what they were doing hidden from view. But some of these people dont do that they dont care who sees them. Whether it is an adult or a child and they dont care how much they show of themselves either. Some of these people are habitual offenders dping it over and over giving them a slap on the wrist does nothing for them. Also some of the worst rapists started out as peeping toms or with public indecency records before they escalated to all out rape etc.

  6. marycarney July 19, 2010 / 11:30 pm

    I’m with you on this one, Meaghan. So much of what is on our local ‘sex offender registry’ is the older boyfriend/ enraged parents of younger girlfriend/ totally consensual sex type of thing. And for crying out loud, people have to live SOMEWHERE! The NIMBY thinking has to stop somewhere.

  7. Princess Shantae July 20, 2010 / 12:30 am

    Yeah, because if they’re homeless they’re harder to keep track of and they can move around all over committing whatever kidn of crime they want and it takes that much longer to catch on.q

  8. Jer July 20, 2010 / 2:24 am

    “I suppose this stance is not going to make me too popular, as most of the people interested in missing persons are strict law-and-order, lock-em-up-and-throw-away-the-key types.”

    I guess everyone here was a lot more reasonable than you might have thought, huh?

    • Meaghan July 20, 2010 / 2:29 am

      I was an arrogant pinhead for having doubted you all.

  9. Will July 20, 2010 / 8:06 am

    My big quibble with the residency laws is this: since when do you have to /reside/ anywhere near a place to commit a crime there?

    • Meaghan July 20, 2010 / 4:04 pm

      You are correct on that. However, it is true that criminals tend to commit their first crimes close to home, and then further and further away as they become more confident.

  10. Princess Shantae July 20, 2010 / 4:07 pm

    And criminals are as lazy as anybody else, they like not having to go too far from home to get their kicks.

    • Meaghan July 20, 2010 / 4:17 pm

      Rollo lived within yards of the spot where he attacked me.

      Of course, a really smart criminal would go far from home and be less likely to be recognized/identified. If I murdered someone and wanted to hide the body, I’d toss it in the back of my car and drive to Wisconsin or something. And even if they found it, it would be years at least before they figured out who it was.

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