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    Wednesday, March 22, 2006

    The Brilliance of our Criminal Justice System

    Iowa's Residency Rules Drive Sex Offenders Underground:

    For years a layover for budget-conscious motorists and construction crews, the motel has lately become a disquieting symbol of what has gone wrong with Iowa's crackdown on sexual offenders of children. With just 24 rooms, the motel, the Ced-Rel, was home to 26 registered sex offenders by the start of March.

    "Nobody wants to have something associated with sex offenders right beside them," said Steve Boland, a farmer and father of two who learns about his newest neighbors every few weeks when sheriff's deputies stop by with photographs of them.

    "Us showing the kids some mug shots sure wasn't going to help," Mr. Boland said. "How were they going to remember that many faces?"

    The men have flocked to the Ced-Rel and other rural motels and trailer parks because no one else will, or can, have them. A new state law barring those convicted of sex crimes involving children from living within 2,000 feet of a school or day care center has brought unintended and disturbing consequences. It has rendered some offenders homeless and left others sleeping in cars or in the cabs of their trucks.

    And the authorities say that many have simply vanished from their sight, with nearly three times as many registered sex offenders considered missing since before the law took effect in September. ...

    Some law enforcement officials say they believe that restrictions keep the most serious sexual predators away from places where they would be most likely to hurt a child again. But others argue that while such laws are politically appealing, there is little empirical evidence to suggest a connection between recidivism and proximity to schools or day care centers, and that the policies are too broad, drawing in, for example, people who as teenagers had sex with an under-age girlfriend.

    But studies for the Colorado Department of Public Safety in 2004 and the Minnesota Department of Corrections in 2003 have suggested that where an offender lives appears to have no bearing on whether he commits another sex crime on a child.

    A flurry of new legislation is being considered all over the country. More legislatures are considering joining a dozen that already use satellite tracking devices on offenders.Others, including Iowa, are considering harsher prison sentences for those who attack children. Lawmakers reason that they would not have to worry about recidivism if offenders rarely emerged from prison.


    I know this isn't a popular point of view, but, if you've served your time for your crime, you should be able to return to the world just like everyone else, even if you were a sex offender. I mean, if that's not what we want our justice system to be, then we should just go all out and open up an island like the English did with Australia, because that would be saying what we mean.

    The more estranged from general society, the less protected people feel by their government, and the more hostile they feel society is to them, the chances of recidivism and/or further criminal activity of a different sort are obviously going to be higher. We already make it hell for ex-convicts to try to re-enter the workforce- doesn't it stand to reason that, the harder it is to get a legal source of income, the more likely it is to find an illegal source of income? Now to make it so difficult for them to obtain housing is going to drive them to similar means to survive.

    And excluding these individuals from general society and basically isolating them in communities of fellow ex-cons is certainly not the best way to keep them from recidivism, is it?

    And finally, the fear of recidivism is partly because the system isn't making sure that prison inmates are getting the psychological and perhaps psychotropic drug therapies that they need and that they aren't getting the proper support upon re-entry (a term which this article proves is very misleading).

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