Civil Liberties

Iowa Reconsiders Residence Restrictions for Sex Offenders

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Last week the Iowa legislature mixed a little sanity into the state's residence restrictions for sex offenders. Under a bill the governor has indicated he will sign, the state will no longer tell "lower-risk" sex offenders, heretofore prohibited from owning or renting homes within 2,000 feet of a school or child care facility, where they may live. Instead it will let schools, child care facilities, and libraries establish "exclusion zones" where sex offenders can be nabbed for loitering. The residence restrictions will remain in place for more-serious offenders, which does not make much sense: Unlike the "exclusion zones," they do nothing to prevent potential child molesters from traveling to other neighborhoods to commit new crimes. Still, this reform counts as a move in the right direction, away from counterproductive, hysteria-driven restrictions that impede reintegration, in some cases making it almost impossible for sex offenders to find a place where they can legally live, and fail to distinguish between sex offenders who pose a real threat to children and those who don't, who nowadays include not only young men who have consensual sex with somewhat younger girlfriends but teenagers who transmit nude pictures of themselves on their cell phones. It's also encouraging that the legal changes had strong support from Iowa police and prosecutors, who for years have been complaining that the residence restrictions made their jobs harder.

I mentioned those complaints in two columns about residence restrictions, here and here.

[Thanks to Mark Lambert for the tip.]