Pedophile-Free Zones: Legal? Do They Work? Are They Always Appropriate?

Discussion in 'Law and Justice System' started by GotZoom, Aug 23, 2005.

  1. GotZoom
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    GotZoom Senior Member

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    MIDDLE TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP) — Sex offender Steven Elwell thought he'd paid his debt to society.

    Elwell, a former teacher and high school wrestling coach, admitted having sex with a 16-year-old female student, lost his job as a teacher and served a year in prison for aggravated sexual assault.

    After being released in 2002, he registered under Megan's Law and became subject to lifetime community supervision.

    Then he began rebuilding his life.

    He got married, had two children and recently opened a pizzeria. For now, home is a two-bedroom apartment above a converted warehouse. But his family is outgrowing it, and Elwell — like thousands of other New Jersey sex offenders — is facing the prospect of finding someplace to live that is not encompassed by sex offender-free zones being established by cities and towns all over New Jersey.

    "We're outgrowing our house fairly quick," said Elwell, 34. "If we have to move, we'll have to find a map, get a plot of land and figure out where it (the pedophile-free zone) doesn't reach."

    That may not be easy. At least four towns now ban sex offenders from living near schools, parks and playground and others, and others are considering similar bans.

    Elwell, a former teacher at Lower Cape May Regional High School, doesn't expect sympathy. But he says the ordinances are too broad, providing a false sense of security at the expense of ex-cons already kept on a tight leash by Megan's Law.

    A growing number of critics agree with him.

    Restricting where sex offenders can live is a misdirected reaction and may be unconstitutional, according to civil liberties advocates, defense attorneys and experts in the field.

    "It is a knee-jerk reaction by knee jerks that solves nothing," said John S. Furlong, a defense attorney who brought the first court challenge to the pioneering Megan's Law statute in 1994. "These laws have absolutely nothing to do with the protection of children and everything to do with scare tactics, cheap political points and an anti-intellectualism that is driving public policy today."

    Megan's Law, the pioneering sex offender registry law, got its start in New Jersey after the 1994 slaying of 7-year-old Megan Kanka by a sex offender who lived across the street. The law prompted dozens of other states to follow suit, requiring released sex offenders to register with police when they moved into a community and for residents to be notified.

    The slaying of 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford, allegedly by a sex offender who lived near her Florida home, has — along with other high-profile cases — prompted lawmakers across the nation to begin establishing "buffer zones" around places where children congregate.

    At least 14 states have laws prohibiting sex offenders from living near schools, day care centers or parks. In New Jersey, Brick Township, Galloway Township, Lower Township and Hamilton Township, Mercer County have adopted similar laws.

    Concerns about the constitutionality of the bans have not stopped the passage of the laws, in part because of political pressure.

    "It's pretty tough, if someone introduces an ordinance like this, to vote no," said Brick Mayor Joseph Scarpelli, which adopted its ordinance Aug. 1, adding bus stops to the list of locations and setting a 2,500 foot radius. With more than 2,000 school bus stops in the town, the measure effectively bars sex offenders from living anywhere in the town.

    "I know they'll probably have a case that tests all these ordinances and there's a good possibility a lot will be thrown out as unconstitutional. But it makes a town feel that they care about their children," Scarpelli said.

    State Attorney General Peter Harvey has said he expects court challenges to the ordinances, although none have been filed yet.

    As for the laws' impact on offenders, there are also questions.

    "I see these laws as symbolic gestures that will have no significant impact on preventing more sex crimes, creating more obstacles for sex offenders returning as safe members of the community," said John La Fond, a law professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and author of "Preventing Sexual Violence: How Society Should Cope with Sex Offenders," a new book.

    "There's no research I'm aware of that establishes that these laws are effective in reducing sexual recidivism. Eighty percent of victims of sex crimes know their perpetrator. These laws may misdirect both public and parental vigilance from the clear risk, posed by people they know, toward the much-less serious risk of stranger danger," he said.

    The head of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children said such ordinances are less important than sex offender-tracking mechanisms that help authorities monitor where sexual predators are spending their time, not where they are living.

    "They have limited value. The challenges go far beyond limiting where they can live," said Ernie Allen, president. "Our concern is that for the offenders who represent the greatest risk, it's not a barrier at all. They're already going to the places where they have the greatest likelihood of anonymity and access to children."

    For now, Elwell is working at his pizzeria, attending support group meetings for sex offenders and answering to his state-appointed community supervision officer.

    Earlier this week, he went before the Lower Township Council to lobby against a proposed ordinance targeting sex offenders, with his wife, Jennifer, and children Kylie, 2, and Joe, eight months old, at his side.

    He plans to file a civil suit challenging the constitutionality of one or more of the laws, which he says unfairly lump all sex offenders together.

    "I see this as adult peer pressure," he said. "Like high school kids drinking alcohol, all these towns are seeing what other towns are doing and doing it."

    http://www.nj.com/newsflash/jersey/index.ssf?/base/news-16/1124507734128170.xml&storylist=jersey
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    I don't know all the details about his "crime", but I'm not so sure I would object to this guy living in my neighborhood. This guy's case might be very different than other pedophiles - who kidnap, molest, etc.
     
  2. no1tovote4
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    no1tovote4 VIP Member

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    People who lived within these zones would be more likely to let down their gaurd.

    I am here to tell you that almost none of the pedophiles in the world have been caught or have registered anywhere at all. Almost all pedophiles get away with their crimes against children. Those people that have not been caught and therefore have not registered could move into these areas, and probably would as parents would be less than careful because they felt themselves in a pedophile-free zone. This problem cannot be solved by simply calling a place pedophile-free.
     
  3. William Joyce
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    William Joyce Chemotherapy for PC

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    I agree with this. I have no sympathy for child molesters, but being tough on crime doesn't have to mean being a moron.
     
  4. Johnney
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    Johnney Senior Member

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    they should never be done with their "debt to society". doesnt matter how long its been. its like a man who beats his wife, hes done it once, he'll do it again.
     

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