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The threat of sex offenders near schools, pt.1

A great many scare tactics are used when discussing registered sex offenders. They are often characterized as if they were all Tier III offenders found to have a high propensity to reoffend. In reality, the rate at which sex offenders commit new sex offenses is about five percent.

The legislature in most states, including Ohio, as well as the federal government, has passed laws that are not very well-reasoned or that used evidence in their formulation. They were often passed after some high-profile incident, while fear and emotion were running high. In the 20 years or more since many were passed, there is still little evidence that they actually protect children.

Many of these laws include residency restrictions, such as the Ohio law that prohibits sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of school or daycare center. A recent news report looks at registered sex offenders who live in nursing homes. It found nine individuals living in nursing homes that are within 1,000 feet of schools or daycare.

This is presented as potentially a danger to any children in the schools. The investigation identified one man, now age 72, who had been convicted of a sex offense in 1999. They could not determine his mobility, but presumed he could still "get around."

In reality, given that he has apparently not reoffended in the last 17 years and is now in a nursing home, it seems unlikely that he poses any real threat to the children in the nearby school. Ironically, in one case they discussed with the County Sheriff, he dismissed the concern, as the individual had Alzheimer’s. He probably poses more threat to injuring himself than to anyone else.

Next week, we will look at the issues created by these laws fail to protect children, and how they cause more harm than good.

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Edward R. La Rue
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