Civil Liberties

At Least Prison Solves the Problem of Finding a Place to Live

|


Here's a new wrinkle to Georgia's draconian residence restrictions for sex offenders: If a sex offender cannot find an affordable place to live that is more than 1,000 feet from the nearest school, day care center, church, swimming pool, and school bus stop, he is guilty of failing to register as a sex offender, which requires providing an address. After a second violation, he goes to prison for life. Larry W. Moore Jr., convicted in North Carolina 13 years ago of "indecent liberty with a child," is challenging the law because it left him with no place to live in Augusta except two hotels, then imposed a life sentence when he could no longer afford them.

You may not have a lot of sympathy for Moore. Judging from the charge on which he was convicted, which in North Carolina requires a victim under 16 and a defendent at least five years older, he might be a genuine child molester (as opposed to, say, a teenager who had consensual sex with another, younger teenager, a category into which many of Georgia's "sex offenders" fall). But he has completed the punishment prescribed by law and is now supposedly a free man. It is arbitrary and unjust to impose an additional penalty after the fact, in essence making it impossible for him to live his life on the outside. (In another case cited by The New York Times, a sex offender was told he had to move out of his home and abandon his restaurant when day care centers opened near both locations.) It is especially odious to render a man homeless by legal fiat and then punish him for his homelessness.

Kerry Howley criticized Georgia's sex offender law last summer; I discussed it in the context of proliferating gun-free, drug-free, and pervert-free zones last fall.