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REGISTER VIEWPOINT: Let's get sex-offender laws that work

Commentary • Apr 8, 2010 at 12:31 AM

The state's residency laws when it comes to sex offenders were outdated before the ink was dry on the legislation. Convicted sex offenders are prohibited from living within 1,000 feet of a school, a daycare center and other public places for fear they may re-offend and victimize a child. But, considering an overwhelming majority of the victims in sex crimes are not strangers to the victimizer, the prohibitions against living near public places have little or no impact on whether a convicted sex offenders strikes again.

The legislation approved by lawmakers in Columbus years ago is long on feel-good, look like you're doing something platitudes, but short on validity or any discernible impact. And if that wasn't bad enough, in their wisdom lawmakers set up 88 different clearinghouses for processing the residency requirements of sex offenders in the 88 counties, and they did so without providing a workable system or funding.

Don't get us wrong: We believe policing known sex offenders is a worthy goal and also salute the law enforcement officers across the state who try to make it work. But we believe state lawmakers should do better and develop a workable system based on concrete information that will truly serve the public, not just give lip service to public service. If the residency laws don't really impact whether an offender will commit another sexual offense then the requirements should be scaled back. If they unenforceable they should be re-worked to create better law that will serve the public.

Our suggestion to lawmakers is to leave the feel-good politics at the door and craft legislation that is grounded in reality, has value and is funded.

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