Orange County, California District Attorney Tony Rackauckas successfully pushed for an onerous sex offender restriction in his community. Under the ordinance, sex offenders who visit any of dozens of public spaces without prior approval from county officials face up to six months in jail or a $500 fine, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The law, approved unanimously by the Orange County Supervisors, is the latest in a controversial series of ordinances across the country aimed at limiting where sex offenders can live and visit. They are commonly championed by politicians who say the laws are intended to keep sex offenders away from children and families.
The ordinance has more to do with political grandstanding than with actually protecting families. California is court mandated to reduce it enormous prison population. Governor Jerry Brown is about to sign into law an unfunded measure to transfer prisoners from state prisons to county jails. California has the nation's largest budget shortfall at $25 billion. Yet, Orange County wants to lock-up former offenders who go to public parks.
Franklin Zimring, a UC Berkeley law professor, told the Times that the law was overly broad and misdirected, because more than nine out of 10 sex crimes targeting children are committed not by strangers in a park, but by family members or acquaintances. "It's trying to solve a problem nobody knows exists," he told the Times, adding that laws imposing restrictions on sex offenders are snowballing because they are politically popular. "Who's going to lose votes being against child molestation?" he said.
According to the Times, Illinois passed a law last year making it a misdemeanor for sex offenders to be in or within 500 feet of a public park, and a South Carolina lawmaker introduced similar legislation after a 17-year-old was raped and murdered by a convicted sex offender at a park on the other side of the country, in San Diego County.
A bill in the California Legislature last year initially included a provision banning all sex offenders from parks where children regularly gather. But lawmakers ultimately limited the language to parolees whose victims had been under age 14. The change made the ban more enforceable because these parolees are required to wear GPS devices, reported the Times. There have already been legal challenges elsewhere.
In Jeffersonville, Ind., according to the Times, where a city ordinance banning sex offenders from parks was passed in 2007, a man convicted of sexual battery against a 13-year-old girl sued when he was not allowed to watch his son play Little League baseball because of the ban. The Court of Appeal there ruled that in his case, the ordinance was unconstitutional because he had been convicted and completed his registration as an offender before the law took effect.
To read more: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-sex-offender-ban-20110406,0,2962934.story