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Local restrictions on sex offender residency

Being convicted of a sex crime can lead to a person facing many restrictions. Restrictions can be put on them in the sentencing order. State law and federal law can put restrictions on them. And, sometimes, local ordinances place restrictions on them.

Some local governments put restrictions on where individuals who are on a sex offender registry can live. For example, some local governments ban registered sex offenders from living within a certain distance of locations where there are lots of children, such as schools. These sorts of regulations can have major living situation implications for individuals convicted of sex crimes.

Proponents of such local ordinances say they are aimed at helping make children and communities safer.

Meanwhile, critics argue that these ordinances aren’t that effective at improving the safety of communities. They further argue that such rules can end up pushing those convicted of sex offenses into difficult situations, in some cases even homelessness, which can make it much more challenging for them to get their life back together after a sex crime conviction and which could also end up creating supervision problems for law enforcement.

The past couple of decades have seen many of these sorts of sex offender ordinances put into force. Currently, thirty different states have communities in them that have these sorts of ordinances on the books.

Now, however, it appears the U.S. might be at something of a crossroads when it comes to local ordinances restricting sex offender residency. There are still plenty of communities adding such ordinances. However, in recent times, the courts of a few states have begun to strike down these sorts of ordinances. And, here in Wisconsin, the state’s legislature is considering putting a state-wide standard in place when it comes to residency restrictions on registered sex offenders.

Thus, one wonders what the future will hold for these kinds of local ordinances. Will we see a big rollback of these ordinances, will we see them continue to play a major part in sex offender law in the country or will we see something in between?

What are your thoughts on these sorts of ordinances? What direction do you think the U.S. should go when it comes to them?

Source: Reuters, “Tide turns against U.S. residency restrictions on sex offenders,” Barbara Goldberg, Nov. 11, 2015

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