This was one of those things that I meant to blog about last week but just didn't have the time.
There's been a lot in the news in the last year or so about sex offenders being run out of neighborhoods due to Megan's Law and Jessica's Law, the latter of which requires life-long monitoring of sex offenders and places certain restrictions upon where they can live.
Now Human Rights Watch has a new report, that says these registries are inhumane and don't protect anyone from crime because the old adage, "once a sex offender, always a sex offender" isn't actually true. Plus, you can end up on these registries for offenses as mild as public urination and as prevalent as having consensual teenage sex.
This sparked an NPR on-air topic last week about the mounting issue of sex-offender rehabilitation and habitation. Do you use these registries and how do you make decisions based upon them?
Interestingly, the topic did a little 180 and started to focus on the impact these laws are having on the sex offenders: Where can they live without being run-out? What happens if they can't get a job, can't find a home, and end up the streets?
Ok, right now most of you are thinking exactly what every good citizen should think: Who the heck cares what impact these laws have on them? They shouldn't offend in the first place! Which is reasonable and appropriate. However, the knock-on effects of these laws don't always fit into our black-and-white ideals.
The question becomes, how do we track a growing contingent of homeless offenders? And how does their dire situation affect the choices they make after being convicted?
Here, for instance, is a story of this exact conundrum from an LA Times reporter: a recently released sex offender thrown-out by every landlord of every place he's tried to settle in, ending up living on a Ventura river bed, and being watched in a nearby van by a security guard from a private firm hired by the county!
In the NPR segment, one sex offender talked about how many like him get put back in jail just because there's nowhere else for them to go. Faced with the streets or jail, many fellow offenders he knows have scraped together the money to buy an entirely new identity, free from Megan and Jessica's laws. He himself has been approached by several individuals offering him a new identity and says that, if he had the money, he would seriously consider it.
Somebody tell me this isn't a problem!
So, my question is: where do we put them? "Not on my street!" is a fair but thoroughly impractical answer. "In a house for sex offenders!" sounds great but where do these places go, and who is willing to pay for them via higher taxes?