aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Sex offender registries: do they work?
Last month David Giacalone wrote an excellent post parsing Schenectady’s PanderPols vote to evict sex offenders:
Talk about child abuse. More than a dozen Schenectady County high school students were “shadowing” our county legislators at a public meeting last night, and they got an unsavory and unvarnished civics lesson. Not only were the youth kept in their seats for four hours, but they had to witness both the ugly refusal by the Chair (Susan E. Savage) to permit debate on what is surely the most controversial piece of local legislation this year, and the nasty sight of posturing and pandering politicians, who “did something to protect children” by passing a meanspirited, shoddily-drafted and predictably ineffective set of residency restrictions on sex offenders. (see a FoxNews23 video covering the story) As today’s Albany Times Union explains, in “Law aims to shield kids: Schenectady County passes housing rules for sex convicts (June 13, 2007), under County of Schenectady Local Law No. 03-07 & 04-07, no matter what their risk level, the age of their victims, or the nature of their crimes, sex offenders may no longer reside near places where children congregate (that is, any elementary, middle or high school, child care facility, public park, playground or swimming pool, or youth center). Not only are they prohibited from moving to a residence within 2000 feet of such places, but:
“The change requires sex offenders — at every level — to leave their homes starting Oct. 1, should they reside within 2,000 feet of public parks, pools and playgrounds, as well as schools, day care and youth facilities.” (emphasis added)
Indeed, if any of those facilities are built, relocated, or licensed within 2000 feet of the residence of a sex offender at any future time, he or she must move within ninety days.
With that David launches into one of the most impressive collections of resources I’ve found:
You can find a very good discussion of issues presented by the residency restrictions on sex offenders by Lior Strahilevitz and many commentors at PrawfsBlawg’s “Sex Offender Residency Restrictions and the Right to Live Where You Want,” Aug. 3, 2005, and Michael Cernovich reviews many of the relevant legal issues at Crime & Federalsim, in his posting Doe v. Miller: The Legal Theories. Residency restrictions have been in the news a lot recently, and have been covered well by Corey Rayburn Yung at Sex Crimes (e.g., here), and by Prof. Douglas A. Berman, at Sentencing Law and Policy weblog. Last year, Prof. Berman pointed to “A potent and important prosecutorial statement against sex offender residency restrictions” (Feb. 9, 2006). The document was released by the Iowa County Attorneys Association, an organization of county prosecutors seeking “to promote the uniform and efficient administration of the criminal justice system.” In its five-page statement ICAA explains that Iowa’s broad sex offender residency restriction “does not provide the protection that was originally intended and that the cost of enforcing the requirement and the unintended effects on families of offenders warrant replacing the restriction with more effective protective measure.” [...]
For further reading on this topic, I suggest:
- An important amicus brief to the Ohio Supreme Court, which is quoted at length in the Sex Crimes posting “Amicus Brief in Challenge to Ohio Residency Restrictions” (June 5, 2007). Among many cogent points, the brief argues that “the Ohio statute may increase the risk of recidivism by forcing many sex offenders to move from supportive environments that reduce the offenders’ risk of re-offending. See, e.g., JOAN PETERSILIA, WHEN PRISONERS COME HOME: PAROLE AND PRISONER REENTRY (2003) (concluding that positive social support is critical to the success of released offenders.).”
- The Sun Sentinel article “Offender fights Palm Beach County ordinance: Tough laws limit where they can live, but critics doubt their effectiveness (June 3, 2007).
- The Newsday story, “Residency laws for sex offenders under microscope:
Restrictions aim to prevent repeat crimes, but critics say all laws do is prevent offenders from rebuilding lives,” Dec. 2, 2006.
- “More limits on sex offenders won’t help, advocate tells board,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 7, 2007, covering the consideration of residency restrictions in Wentzville, MO.
- [update: June 14, 2007] “Patchwork of sex offender laws leads to confusion,” CapitalNews 9 [Albany, NY], June 13, 2007.
- “Montgomery County reacting to Schenectady sex offender restrictions,” WNYT.com, June 14, 2007. [”We’ll take a look at what we have here on the books already, do an assessment in order to keep them from making a mass exodus from Schenectady County or any other county into our county,” said Tom DiMezza, chairman of the Board of Supervisors.] And, “Sex offender says he has no place left to go,” WNYT.com, June 14, 2007 (focus on Richard Matthews, a registered sex offender living in Scotia, NY).
I believe the policy issues presented by sex offender residence restrictions are important for the integrity of our society. Notwithstanding the example of the current Administration in Washington, we cannot react to fear (especially exaggerated fear) by unduly restricting the civil liberties of an undesirable or unpopular class of people. The issues are important enough, that I told the County Legislature last night that I would come out of retirement to help bring a declaratory judgment suit or other challenge to their actions (that really brought them to their senses). Since I’m a bit rusty (as well as under the weather a lot), I would appreciate any volunteer assistance in this battle. If you don’t know how to contact me, just leave a Comment below.
LATER: Corrected attribution. Sorry David!
The YouTube debate debacle
My sum up from PrezVid.com:
I am sorely disappointed.
CNN selected too many obvious, dutiful, silly questions.
Anderson Cooper didn’t pace the debate; he tried to trip the runners.
The videos were too tiny to be given justice.
The candidates’ videos were just commercials.
There were far too few issues.
There were too many candidates.
The candidates gave us the same answers they always give.
I have no doubt - no doubt - that we, the people, would have done a better job picking the questions than CNN did.
I have no doubt that we would have heard far more substance without CNN and TV cameras in this. This should have been a debate held online: candidates answering questions directly without the need for CNN, Anderson Cooper, or their questions.
We end with the usual horserace blather of the TV commentators.
A terribly wasted opportunity, this was.
Of academic inquiry
Another observation from Steven Pinker in defense of dangerous ideas:
Though academics owe the extraordinary perquisite of tenure to the ideal of encouraging free inquiry and the evaluation of unpopular ideas, all too often academics are the first to try to quash them. The most famous recent example is the outburst of fury and disinformation that resulted when Harvard president Lawrence Summers gave a measured analysis of the multiple causes of women’s underrepresentation in science and math departments in elite universities and tentatively broached the possibility that discrimination and hidden barriers were not the only cause.
From the preface to his forthcoming book What Is Your Dangerous Idea?: Today’s Leading Thinkers on the Unthinkable. My experience says his observation is spot-on!
I am sitting in Gallery Espresso off Chippewa Square in Savannah. I’ve spent a good amount of time in the Metro Coffee House on MLK. And last night we went to a live PBR radio play (PBR = “Peanut Butter Radio") by The Savannah Actors Theatre at the Sentient Bean.
I am a great big fan of independently owned local coffee shops. Unfortunately, the best coffee I’ve had here in town is from Starbucks. I’ll happily pay the 9Ã‚Â¢ increase:
Next week, caffeine addicts will pay an average 9 cents more for a cup of coffee at Starbucks, partly because of the rising price of the milk and whipped cream.
The increase was unexpected, given how infrequently the Seattle chain has raised prices. The last increase, which averaged a nickel, came less than 10 months ago.
Before that, Starbucks hadn’t raised prices since an 11-cent increase in 2004. [...]
Starbucks’ price increase goes into effect next Tuesday. While some customers shrugged at it, others bristled.
“If they raise it, I’m not going to go there, even if it’s only 9 cents,” said Mindy Albert of Wallingford.
It’s not the money so much as the idea of two price increases in a row, she said. With Starbucks’ buying power, “you’d think they’d be able to keep costs down.”
The price increases will vary by region and drink. They apply only to brewed coffee and other beverages that baristas make behind the counter, and not to drinks sold in bottles.
Starbucks coffee continues to be cheaper than that of many independent coffee chains. A 12-ounce latte at Seattle’s Espresso Vivace costs $2.95, compared with $2.45 at a downtown Seattle Starbucks.