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Univ. of Arkansas, Fayetteville

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Monday, November 27, 2006

NY Times on Zoning Against Sex Offenders

Today's NY Times has an interesting article on zoning laws that restrict sex offender residency.  Here's an excerpt:

The man identified in court documents as A. B. does not talk to his neighbors or tarry at the convenience store. Seventy-seven years old, soft-spoken and sometimes confused, he hardly ever leaves the little ranch house he bought in 1969. “People know what’s what with me,” he said.

What’s what with A. B. is that he moved back here last year after serving seven years in prison for sexually molesting two grandchildren and another youngster. And because his home is in a “child safety zone” drawn by the township, he may be forced to leave it.

But the public defender’s office in New Jersey, a state government agency, filed suit against the township on his behalf last month, claiming that the ordinance not only violates his right to due process, but also conflicts with a state law requiring that parole officers decide where registered sex offenders live. It is the first such case the agency has taken up, and could herald a curb on the rapidly proliferating local ordinances that threaten to push pedophiles to the fringes of civilization.

Such regulations — more than 100 have been enacted in New Jersey municipalities — are popular around the nation. More than 20 states have broad laws keeping sex offenders from schools, churches, playgrounds and the like. This month 70 percent of California voters approved expanding statewide restrictions to include more sex offenders, and authorized towns to designate even stricter limits.

Ben Barros

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