Sex Offenders Need Homes, Too

Ohio’s 1,000-foot-rule keeping convicted sex offenders from living close to schools, day care centers and other places where children gather was ruled unconstitutional Oct. 20 in one court and upheld in another court on the same day.

In Troy, Ohio, the 2nd District Court of Appeals ruled that a person who both owned his home and committed a sexual offense before July 31, 2003 —the effective date of the residency law — can’t be thrown out of his home.

The case involves a 76-year-old man who pled guilty eight years ago to attempting to touch a 13-year-old girl, over her clothes, as she assisted him down from the bleachers during a basketball game. He had owned his home with his 92-year-old wife for 30 years. Stephen JohnsonGrove, an attorney with the Cincinnati-based Ohio Justice and Policy Center, argued the case on behalf of the couple.

“There was no question — there could not be any question — that it is a substantive right to live in the home that you own,” JohnsonGrove says. “This man pled guilty and served his time. No one in our community would have been served by booting him out of his house. This law does not really increase community safety.”
On the same day as that ruling, the 1st District Court of Appeals, which covers Hamilton County, handed down an opposing decision, ruling that the sex offender residency law doesn’t violate the state constitution.

“We will be asking the 1st District to reconsider as soon as possible,” says David Singleton, executive director of the Ohio Justice and Policy Center. “It appears that the 1st District failed to determine whether or not it is a substantive right to live in a home you have owned for years. We are confident that once given an opportunity to re-focus on the real issue, the Court will understand that being able to live in the homestead where you have shared a marriage, raised your kids and been a community member is undeniably a substantive right.”

Considering that more than 86 percent of all sexual abuse is perpetrated by someone known to the victims, the Herculean effort by politicians, advocacy groups and others to keep all former offenders away from children — regardless of the age or gender of their victims or the nature of their crime — perpetuates an irrational fear that takes attention away from the kind of prevention that’s effective. Educate yourself and your kids about what constitutes sexual abuse, how to spot the signs and support the treatment of former offenders — those who receive treatment are less likely to re-offend.

— Margo Pierce

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