Friday, August 3, 2007
We have had a number of posts about residency restrictions for homeless sex offenders (see here, here, and here). The NY Times today reported that a sex offender is facing an automatic life sentence for violating Georgia's new registry law for the second time. Here's an excerpt:
"The law requires offenders to register their address and forbids them to live or work within 1,000 feet of not only schools and day care centers but also churches, swimming pools and school bus stops. It expanded the definition of a sex offender and raised penalties for violating registry requirements.
Homelessness is not an acceptable excuse. “One of the requirements when you become a sex offender is you have to have an address,” said Sgt. Ray Hardin of the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office in Augusta.
Sergeant Hardin said enforcement of the law required a dedicated investigator, a global positioning system and, each time an offender moves, hours of paperwork. At least 15 sex offenders have been arrested because of homelessness since the law took effect in July 2006, according to documents gathered through pretrial proceedings in a lawsuit brought by the Southern Center for Human Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union.
The suit argues that the law leaves offenders virtually nowhere to live. Sarah Geraghty, a lawyer with the human rights center, said she had scoured the state for homeless shelters that would accept male sex offenders and could find only one, which was full. A document from the Sex Offender Administration of the Georgia Department of Corrections, provided to a reporter by Ms. Geraghty, lists what it calls “offenders arrested for being homeless.”
Georgia’s law is not the only one that has made it hard for offenders to maintain legal residences. In Florida, the state authorized five offenders to live under a bridge in Miami after they were unable to find suitable housing that they could afford. In Iowa, a victims’ group found that offenders tried to comply with the registry law by offering addresses like “rest area mile marker 149” or “RV in old Kmart parking lot.” Critics of residency restrictions say they drive offenders underground and have little effect on the number of sex crimes.
As a tough-on-crime measure, the Georgia law was enacted easily, with supporters saying it would force sex offenders to leave the state. “Every sex offender in Georgia will now serve time in jail, and every sex offender in Georgia will be monitored after their release,” said the House majority leader, Jerry Keen, the bill’s Republican sponsor.
But the law’s opponents have called it too harsh in its penalties, too broad in its restrictions and too rigid, allowing no exceptions even when a day care center or a church opens within 1,000 feet of an offender’s pre-existing residence. One offender, Anthony Mann, was told he had to leave his house and the barbecue restaurant he owned when day care centers opened too close to both locations, according to a second lawsuit."
Rose Cuison Villazor