Thursday, October 20, 2005

2000 feet is just a start

Sex offenders that want to live in any-town-Iowa are soon out of luck, as towns, cities and urban sprawl governments move to block sex offenders from their geography. By extending the 2000-foot law to all government owned spots where kids regularly congregate, Iowa cities & towns insure that the creeps with a thing for the “not barely legal” set will have to move out to the farm, or trailer on the back lot of the farm, if they want to stick around.

It’s politics with a twist. The legislature is going to stand on their 2000-foot law and the cities are moving to pile on to the limit with mixed motives. On the one hand, city leaders want to look tough on crime; on the other hand, they argue the law doesn’t work so if they pass their own version it’ll force the legislature to revisit the policy.

From the legislature’s perspective, however, the best resolution to the 2000-foot law is no resolution, as most pols see the political motives in the activists soft-selling it for campaign fodder. And the fodder is already accumulating.

Thursday’s DMR published this equivocating piece on Iowa’s sex offender laws. Opening and ending the story with quotes from an interview with Maureen Kanka, the mother of Megan of “Megan’s Law”.

… in an interview with The Des Moines Register that she's conflicted about laws such as Iowa's, which bars child molesters from living within 2,000 feet of schools or child-care centers.

"I don't think it's necessarily fair to push sex offenders out of one area where they're then forced to congregate together in another," said Kanka, whose daughter's killer lived with two other convicted sex offenders. "This kind of law is not going to stop someone from hurting a child if they want to hurt a child.

"At the same time, I do know that sex offenders should not be around children. At all. Ever. These laws don't say that. Please tell me when they do."…

… Maureen Kanka said she can only focus on awareness now. She hopes new laws like Iowa's help hold the public's attention. She said she'd consider that alone to be a win for Megan.

"We pass laws and develop and grow from tragedies," Kanka said. "It was the death of a child, my child . . . that started a lot of this around the country. These laws must be crafted carefully, with thought and purpose, or they will let other children down. And it's the children who are counting on us."

The Kanka quotes from the article are slightly out of context, the first three paragraphs appeared at the front of the story and the last two appeared at the end. Perhaps an attempt by the writers to frame their point of view through the eyes of a victim’s mother turned advocate; but the message is clear, at least from Kanka, we may not know what to do, but the careful attempt at something is better than nothing.

The real point of the DMR piece is to focus on the imperfections of the 2000-foot law,

that's the thing about making laws, lawmakers say. They hardly ever turn out perfect.

Laws tend to be more reactive than proactive. They benefit some while sometimes hurting others. And they can have unintended consequences that can be difficult to undo….

Iowa's law restricting where certain sex offenders can live has drawn the most attention lately. But it isn't the first time legislation — introduced with all the best intentions — has resulted in what one criminal justice expert describes as "laws that create more problems than safeguards."…

… When an issue comes up that draws such little debate, as did Iowa's 2,000-foot restriction for sex offenders whose victims were minors, politicians can sit comfortably in the public's "popular spotlight," said Donald Bersoff, a law professor at Villanova University and contributing editor of the journal Law and Human Behavior.

"When you have a tragic event, or a trend that causes widespread public panic or concern, there is a big rush to hurry in and solve the problem," said Bersoff, whose recent article, "Some Contrarian Concerns About Law, Psychology and Public Policy," explores the unintended consequences of lawmaking. "But what we're often left with are laws that create more problems than safeguards. And it's a very long process to undo really bad laws."

Hmm, the DMR thinks the law stipulating a 2000-foot safety zone around schools and daycares is a bad law. The DMR writers must not be too concerned about their children walking home from school, and past a house occupied by a perv wanking off at the sight of their child and all the other little robust beings marching on by.

Although the selective use of quotes makes it difficult to infer, it seems that Ms. Kanka supports Iowa’s 2000-foot law as one mechanism to raise awareness about child sexual abuse. So, stamp it “good law”, tweak it if necessary, and move on to do more. (See this section of the Iowa Code at the bottom of the post)

And we can and should do more; get rid of the pedophile chat rooms, direct resources to hunt down and prosecute the online & offline purveyors of the “not barely legal” sleaze; and increase criminal penalties for people engaging in or viewing sexual acts involving children.

If there is one thing where the hackneyed phrase “zero tolerance” should apply, it’s in the use of children for any sort of sexual gratification.


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692A.2A Residency restrictions - child care facilities and schools.

1. For purposes of this section, "person" means a person who has committed a criminal offense against a minor, or an aggravated offense, sexually violent offense, or other relevant offense that involved a minor.
2. A person shall not reside within two thousand feet of the real property comprising a public or nonpublic elementary or secondary school or a child care facility.
3. A person who resides within two thousand feet of the real property comprising a public or nonpublic elementary or secondary school, or a child care facility, commits an aggravated misdemeanor.
4. A person residing within two thousand feet of the real property comprising a public or nonpublic elementary or secondary school or a child care facility does not commit a violation of this section if any of the following apply:
a. The person is required to serve a sentence at a jail, prison, juvenile facility, or other correctional institution or facility.
b. The person is subject to an order of commitment under chapter 229A .
c. The person has established a residence prior to July 1, 2002, or a school or child care facility is newly located on or after July 1, 2002.
d. The person is a minor or a ward under a guardianship.

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UPDATE: Iowa Libertarian quips large on this topic, and in response I posted this comment. I think it explains my point of view quite nicely, thank you.

Royce,

I disagree. I think this is something for "zero tolerance". If only to keep that drop your pants behavior in check.

However, I do agree a couple of tweaks are in order; perhaps allowing young sex offenders to function under the ward provision until they are 21, with a review of their potential to reoffend after they are no longer under parental /institutional supervision. Sort of a juvi sex offender clause.

I think, for most people, that's really the only objection to the current implementation of the 2000-foot restrictions.

I guess I have a different perspective having been exposed, literally, to sex offender(s) on my way to school as a kid. (No physical harm, just a little too much information about a neighbor.)



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