Civil Liberties

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


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]

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  1. Just a quick thought: why aren’t convicted carjackers prohibited from living near auto dealerships? Or shoplifters from 7-Elevens? Or pathological liars from Capitol Hill?

  2. Ever notice how the most active libertarian organization in the country seems to be the ACLU? And just a decade ago it was wallowing in political correctness.

  3. Was that 2,500′ via the town or state road, or as the crow flies?

    That might not make much difference in some towns, but Western PA can be hilly. Pittsburgh even has funicular trams.


  4. kevrob’s question is not as silly as it seems, there is precedent, although on a completely different issue. We have either a city or state (not sure which) law that restricts liquor licenses. A license cannot be granted if another exists within XXX ft of the location. Location is determined by walking distance from main entrance. The courts recently ruled that two places across the street from each other can both have a license because the walking distance cannot be considered a straight line, because that would involve jay-walking. The proper distance is to the nearest light, then across at the crosswalk, then back down the other side of the street.

  5. J sub D | March 23, 2009, 6:18pm

    The myth caanot be debunked too much.

  6. This is just NIMBYism to its most ridiculous extreme. These people have to live somewhere.

  7. Hell, why not just make it 3500 feet? Or 25,000 feet? I mean, once you’ve set the idea that the state can tell people (who are not on probation or parole) that there is an arbitrary number of feet they must stay away from X, Y, and Z, what’s to stop the state from effectively exiling people?

  8. Toilet sausage chef causes prison unit evacuation:

    CLALLAM BAY, Wash. – An inmate’s attempt to heat up sausages in his toilet went up in smoke when the cooking fire forced a unit evacuation at a Washington prison. Clallam Bay Corrections Center spokeswoman Denise Larson says 130 inmates were evacuated to a dining hall when smoke was spotted coming from a sewer vent pipe Wednesday evening.

    She says the smoke was traced to the inmate’s cell and he admitted to trying to heat up snack sausage bought from a prison store in the stainless steel toilet. The inmate’s identity has not been released.

    The toilet chef has been placed in segregation pending discipline at the prison on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula.

  9. Sorry to stray from the thread but I gotta say this.

    If “toilet sausage” is on the menu, I’m not eating.

  10. “a prison store in the stainless steel toilet”

    Toilets equipped with prison stores? On my dollar?

  11. And just a decade ago it was wallowing in political correctness.

    It still is, this case notwithstanding.

  12. Ever notice how the most active libertarian organization in the country seems to be the ACLU?

    No. Especially not with IJ on the scene nowadays (not to mention the ACLU’s support for 1st amendment-violating CFR, gun control, etc)

  13. “I like to move it, move it…I like to…”

  14. Nothing conjures up an image of safety quite like gatherings of sex offenders on forested hilltops…

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