Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Unintended Consequences

The Enquirer reports that Westwood Concern is upset about an apartment building in which eight registered sex offenders are residing. From the article, it appears that the building is simply a private apartment building at which several sex offenders have chosen to live. Unfortunately, Westwood Concern is probably complaining about the inevitable consequences of our residency laws.

First, let me clear: I like Westwood Concern. I don't always agree with it or its leader, Mary Kuhl, but I respect them for their commitment to their neighborhood and their activism. So please, don't anyone think this is an I-hate-the-West-Side post.

Having said that, though, concentrations of sex offenders in certain neighborhoods--or even buildings--are the logical result of draconian restrictions on where sex offenders can lawfully live. If 60 percent of the city is off-limits--as the Enquirer reports--then that only leaves the remaining 40 percent available to registered sex offenders. Subtract out the portion of that forty percent that is commercial or high-end residential, and sex offenders have few options for housing.

We're certainly not the only community dealing with this issue. Back in 2007, CNN.com carried a piece regarding a trailer park in Florida that was a safe haven for sex offenders. The answer probably lies in ending the one-size-fits-all approach to monitoring convicted sex offenders. Not all sex offenders are pedophiles. And a sane approach to law enforcement and criminal justice must recognize that. Sadly, Megan's Law and the Adam Walsh Act, while politically satisfying, are ineffective at actually keeping anyone safe.

And finally, people are right to be concerned about the Pogue Center being a collection center for offenders from across the state. According to ODRC's report on the facility, 75% of residents are from Butler, Clark, Clermont, Clinton, Greene, Hamilton, Highland, Miami, Montgomery, Preble, and Warren Counties. That's quite a broad area. (And the remaining 25% may come from anywhere in the state.) But it's also important to know that very few Pogue Center residents who are not Hamilton County residents are permitted to remain here once their treatment program is concluded. ORDC reports that in order for a non-resident placed at the VOA to stay here, an offender has to show that he has full-time employment, stable community support, and adequate savings; since 2006, only 3 out-of-county offenders have been permitted to establish residency here at the conclusion of their treatment.

Ultimately, the continued adherence to strict, Adam Walsh-like regimes will lead to sex offender ghettoes. That's not useful, it doesn't protect the public, and it's not in the interest of the community in which the ghetto is created.

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