Paco: Pariah laws offend Constitution
By IAN LOVETT | New York Times
HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. — Convicted sex offenders are barred from surfing at the famous pier in this Orange County city.
In nearby Dana Point, they are prohibited from casting a fishing line in the harbor.
And if they wander into a public park in Mission Viejo, they could be shipped back to jail for six months, following the City Council’s vote this year to ban them from a host of places where children congregate.
“We need to protect our kids,” the Orange County district attorney, Tony Rackauckas, had told the Mission Viejo City Council. “The danger is very real.”
Orange County finds itself at the center of a new wave of laws restricting the movement of sex offenders. The county government and a dozen cities here have banned sex offenders from even setting foot in public parks, on beaches and at harbors, rendering almost half the parks in Orange County closed to them. Ten more cities are considering similar legislation.
And Orange County is far from alone. In recent years, communities around the country have gone beyond regulating where sex offenders can live and begun banning them outright from a growing list of public places.
From North Carolina to Washington State, communities have designated swimming pools, parks and school bus stops as “child safety zones,” off limits to some sex offenders. They are barred from libraries in half a dozen Massachusetts cities, and from all public facilities in tiny Huachuca City, Ariz…
The proliferation of such restrictions reflects the continued concerns of parents and lawmakers about potential recidivism among sex offenders. But it has also increasingly raised questions about their effectiveness, as well as their fairness.
Opponents have dismissed “child safety zones” as unenforceable, saying they are designed to make politicians look tough on crime and drive sex offenders from the area, not make children safer…(Full text at New York Times)
Notwithstanding the dearth of sympathy for the plight of the pariahs we call sex offenders, the Bill of Rights contains no exemptions. Therefore, even though the children of Dana Point are undoubtedly safer because 290′s aren’t permitted to fish in the ocean, the prohibition offends our foundational document.
Sadly, a majority appear to find this particular unconstitutional matter a non-issue–It’s OK to deprive sex offenders of their Constitutional Rights. Paco understands and sympathizes with the sentiment. Even so, the Constitution either applies to us all or it applies to no one…eventually.
To reiterate Paco’s position on the matter of registered sex offenders:
- Many sex offenders are not sex offenders at all. Sex offender rolls include countless offenders who present no threat whatsoever to children or others. Until last week, this included Brian Banks who was falsely accused and convicted of rape a decade ago. It also includes folks convicted of public urination, public nudity etc.
- While registration has been held Constitutional, on their face such laws acknowledge and underscore the paucity of sentences for actual child predation and predatory rape. Which is to say, true predators belong in prison–Registration exists because lawmakers lack the stones to set life terms for lifelong sex offenders.
- No studies or statistics have ever established sex offenders commit offenses at schools or parks near their residence of record. Yet, many jurisdictions in the nation bar sex offenders from residing near those sites, libraries, movie theaters…
- Gangs are an imminent threat both in public parks and schools–Children are frequently shot at those places, caught in a crossfire. Where are the signs prohibiting gang members from public parks?
Paco says lock up ACTUAL predatory sex offenders and keep them there.
AND, like it or not, people who have served their time are NOT 2nd class citizens–They are citizens, entitled to the same rights as everyone else.
Barring that, let’s be honest and change the Constitution to sanction a 2nd class of citizen whose rights are forfeit: the Pariah.