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2 Legislators Want To Keep Sex Offenders Away From Children

by Hugh McQuaid | Dec 11, 2013 6:30am
(13) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Civil Liberties, Courts, Equality, Law Enforcement, Legal, Public Safety, State Capitol, Derby, Woodbridge

Christine Stuart file photo

Rep. Themis Klarides, R-Derby

A Republican and a Democrat announced plans last week to push for a law to prohibit sex offenders from living near places where children gather.

The proposal comes from Rep. Themis Klarides, R-Derby, and Sen. Joe Crisco, D-Woodbridge. In a joint press release, the two legislators called for legislation establishing a 1,000-foot radius around schools, daycares, “and other locations where children typically gather.” The bill would prevent any registered sex offenders from residing within these zones.

“The last thing a parent should have to worry about when they send their child to school is whether a depraved sex offender is lurking around the corner from the jungle gym or classroom,” Klarides said in a statement.

The legislation also would ramp up penalties for crimes committed within the zones.

Klarides said she proposed a similar bill in 2007 but was met by “inexcusable opposition” from Democratic lawmakers.

Crisco does not share that opposition. He said the state already has good reason to require sex offenders to register where they live.

Courtesy of Crisco's office “This initiative is a straightforward extension of these safeguards and protections and if enacted, will help separate those on the registry from schools and daycare centers where children congregate,” he said.

The proposal is in some ways similar to the state’s already-existing “drug-free zone” statutes. Another group of state lawmakers have worked unsuccessfully for the past few years to get those policies repealed.

For many lawmakers in urban communities, the problem with the state’s 1,500-foot drug free zones policy is that as it is currently written, the zones often encompass entire urban neighborhoods or even most of a given municipality. As a result, anyone who’s convicted of a drug charge in those cities faces a stiffer penalty than they would in another town.

According to an Office of Legislative Research report from 2007, many states impose varying residency restrictions on convicted sex offenders. The report found the most compelling argument for the laws is that they reduce recidivism by separating known offenders from potential victims.

But OLR also found that the policies can have unintended consequences, like forcing sex offenders to move into rural areas. The relocation can sometimes lead to homelessness, which causes the offenders to go underground and become more difficult for law enforcement to track.

Michael Lawlor, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s criminal justice policy adviser, said the state currently imposes residency restrictions on sex offenders on a case-by-case basis. There are 2,284 sex offenders in Connecticut under probationary supervision by a specialized sex offender unit, he said.

“Probation and parole can decide where they can live, where they can work, where they can go, and where they can’t go,” Lawlor said. “That’s all standard for the offenders under supervision. The approach we’ve taken in Connecticut depends on the individual offender. We’ve resisted the ‘one size fits all’ approach.”

Klarides said she believes most people think there already are laws preventing sex offenders from living near schools.

“Keeping sex offenders away from kids is a common sense policy that many people assume is already in place . . . I call on my colleagues to do the right thing for our communities and support this legislation when the 2014 session convenes,” she said.

However, the American Civil Liberties Union and others have questioned the constitutionality of such residency restrictions. Andrew Schneider, executive director of the Connecticut chapter of the ACLU, said Tuesday that his organization will oppose the proposal if it is raised next year.

“Banishing former sex offenders from certain neighborhoods and depriving them from the basic right to freedom of movement would be unconstitutional and counterproductive. It would interfere with their reintegration into society and their rehabilitation, which could harm both them and society,” Schneider said.

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(13) Comments

posted by: Historian | December 11, 2013  1:16pm

Another simplistic and legally questionable proposal in time for reelection season. Suggest also the candidate wear appropriate clothing for the work place.

posted by: Matt from CT | December 11, 2013  2:14pm

Thumbs up for the author pointing out the problems with similar laws that effectively zone entire cities!

THAT is the kind of responsible, informed journalism sadly lacking in newspapers today.

(I also oppose scarlet letter laws like sex offenders registry—fix the prison, probation, and mental health systems so the dangerous are kept under control and those unlikely to re-offend are allowed to live quiet, productive, peaceful lives.)

posted by: Joebigjoe | December 11, 2013  2:58pm

I knew Themis before she was Themis, the legislator. She has always tried to do the right thing and could care less about the politics. If the ACLU is against it then it must be a good bill.

1000 feet might be too far but if you dont like it then dont be a sex offender in the first place. However, I do think that zone should be on a case by case basis. The 19 year old with the 15 year old girlfriend is not the same as the person that used force against another or crimes against children.

posted by: ShellyStow | December 11, 2013  6:13pm

Blanket residency restrictions do nothing to further public safety. Those who sexually abuse children are not “depraved sex offender(s)...lurking around the corner from the jungle gym or classroom.” Real child sex offenders aren’t strangers lurking; they are family members and peers and authority figures of their victims, people the children know and trust, people not on any sex offender registry.

Rather than a sweeping ordinance which treats everyone the same and has many negative consequences for former offenders and their families as well as for law enforcement, use a sensible, individualized plan. If one of your registrants living in the community has a history of abducting child victims who are strangers to him from public places, tailor his living requirements with that in mind. Increasing the difficulty of finding suitable housing for the other 99.9% of your registered citizens does nothing but impede their progress toward re-entry and rehabilitation, which is no one’s best interest.

posted by: yellowroselady | December 11, 2013  6:44pm

Maybe CT is jealous of FL and is stepping up their game.

posted by: yellowroselady | December 11, 2013  7:59pm

There are 751,538 men, women and children (young as 6, 8 and 10 in some states)registrants across the states and the “crimes” range from urinating in public (indecent exposure), sexting, incest, mooning, exposure, false accusations by a soon-to-be ex-wife, angry girlfriend, or spiteful student, viewing abusive OR suggestive images of anyone18 years old or younger, playing doctor, prostitution, solicitation, Romeo and Juliet consensual sexual dating relationships, rape, endangering the welfare of a child and many others. 
 
If you multiply the number on the registry by 2 or 3 family members you can clearly see there are well over 2,500,000 wives, children, moms, aunts, girlfriends, grandmothers and other family members who experience the collateral damage of being harassed, threatened, children beaten, have signs placed in their yards, homes set on fire, vehicles damaged, asked to leave their churches and other organizations, children passed over for educational opportunities, have flyers distributed around their neighborhood, wives lose their jobs when someone learns they are married to a registrant….all these things occur when these people try to hold their family together and provide the three things that professionals state are needed for successful re-integration; a job, a place to live and a good support system.
Vicki Henry, Women Against Registry dot com

posted by: Joebigjoe | December 12, 2013  9:21am

Shelly you had me interested as you talked about individualized aspects of this but you’re kidding about this part right? I think someone that has this issue needs a bullet in the back of the head today and not ten or twenty years later.

“If one of your registrants living in the community has a history of abducting child victims who are strangers to him from public places, tailor his living requirements with that in mind”

posted by: ShellyStow | December 12, 2013  10:26am

Joe, thank you for coming to a most logical solution—a case by case basis. I want to clear up the fallacy of “if you don’t want to be on the registry, don’t do the crime to begin with.”
This is an example of a large number of registrants: twenty five years ago Joe had a few too many in a bar and got too fresh with the gal next to him. She filed charges; he plead guilty to unwanted advances of a sexual nature, spent six months in the county jail, and got out free and clear. He grew up, got married, had a family, was a decent, responsible, law-abiding citizen. Along came the registry and AWA and he is now required to register on the public registry. His life changes; he loses his customers, then his business, then his home, his kids are harassed at school, he and his wife are asked to resign from their social club….it can go on and on.

Additionally, over a third of people on the registry are juveniles or went on as juveniles, some as young as ten. Public registration serves no one well. The registry needs to be pared to those who actually pose a danger to the community, and then it needs to be a law-enforcement only registry. Public notification has proven to be non-effective and have many detrimental side effects.

posted by: dano860 | December 13, 2013  8:58am

As usual, the one ‘size fits all’ application of action isn’t the best one.
Common sense and scientific methods exist today for finding the criminal type of abuser. They should to be able to identify and separate the hard core abuser from the person relieving themselves on the side of the highway or the casual drunk making the annual Christmas party mistake.

posted by: ShellyStow | December 13, 2013  9:20am

Joe, I’m not sure which part you are confused about—my fault, I am sure. If you will clarify, I will try to answer.

posted by: Matt W. | December 13, 2013  10:54am

Matt W.

Amen Shelly, The “sex offender” label has become completely useless through the watered down application and overuse.  It is astounding the speed with which these people can take a well intentioned and fairly useful law and foul it up beyond recognition to the point that its no longer useful to anyone but the prosecutor.

posted by: Joebigjoe | December 13, 2013  11:25am

Shelley, you said ““If one of your registrants living in the community has a history of abducting child victims who are strangers to him from public places, tailor his living requirements with that in mind”

To be more clear, I am totally with you on individual circumstances but what you described in that statement is not a question of what their living requirements should be because I feel that some who has a history of abducting chidren who they dont know deserves to be killed. Seriously and right away.

Like you I worry about the ones who didnt do something that was sick or violent and get the Scarlet letter.

However the example of the guy in jail for 6 months for groping a girl in a public place where there is alcohol and over their clothing is over the top. That stuff does happen but it gets thrown out or nollied down UNLESS this person has a habit of doing it. They arent getting the sexual assault label and sex offender registry in situations like that.

What I would like to see is a brief situational description under the person in the registry and have the registry for bad/sick people. There is a difference (although bad behaviors) between the guy who has been dating a woman and in the heat of an argument he forces himself on her and the guy who lurks in the bushes waiting for the woman he doesnt know to come by. Both scum bags but one is a threat to women that choose to date him and one is a threat to humanity. Yeah I feel sexual assault against someone you dont know is the lowest scum on earth

posted by: ShellyStow | December 16, 2013  1:59pm

Joe, as much of a stickler as I am for accuracy of language, I was not clear in what I said. I did not mean to indicate a person with multiple offenses. I meant a person with a single offense that fit that category. I agree with you that a repeat offender who consistently lured children who were strangers from public places would need much more stringent arrangements than just being sure he wasn’t living next to kids. I do not believe that capital punishment for a non-capital offense will pass into law, nor should it. As far as your arguments about what will require one to register, you have some misconceptions. If you really want the facts, you can easily research. Look up a couple of Human Rights Watch reports involving sex offender registry requirements. Contact Frank Rodriquez on the Texas registry for consensual high school sex with the girl who has been his wife and mother of his 4 kids for 20 years now. He will be on the registry until he dies; there are many like him; some states are very harsh in their registry requirements.