Civil Liberties

Hilltop View, Inconvenient to Schools (and Parks, Playgrounds, Etc.)

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Last week a federal judge overturned an Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, ordinance that bars sex offenders from living within 2,500 feet (about half a mile) of schools, parks, day care centers, recreation centers, and other places where children gather. The ACLU of Pennsylvania, which challenged the ordinance, says it "effectively excludes convicted sex offenders from living virtually anywhere in the County except forested hilltops and a few high-income areas." The ACLU argued that such residence restrictions amount to an unconsitutional punishment imposed after offenders have completed their sentences. It also argued that the Allegheny County ordinance clashed with the state's system of post-prison registration, monitoring, and rehabilitation. In a decision the county plans to appeal, U.S. District Judge Gary L. Lancaster agreed with the latter argument, finding that the ordinance impedes rehabilitation by preventing offenders from returning to their communities upon being released, which in some cases prevents them from being released at all.

Lancaster also noted the ordinance's broad sweep, which includes many people who never victimized children or who are unlikely to re-offend. Of the six offenders represented by the ACLU, three were convicted of sex offenses involving other adults whom they knew; one was convicted of a sex offense minor enough that he did not serve any prison time for it; and one is on parole for "a sex offense involving a 17-year-old victim, which occurred soon after he became 18." Since the Allegheny County ordinance tracks state registration requirements, it also could effectively banish a teenager who sent someone a photograph of herself in a bra.

The ACLU's complaint is here (PDF). More on sex offender residence restrictions here, herehere, and here.

[via The Freedom Files]