Residency restrictions is the polite term for banishment laws that are on the books in many states and cities around the country. The laws target people on the sex offense registry and are usually wreathed in child protection rhetoric. Are they effective? Investigative reporter Eric Dexheimer did some serious digging and has a story about Meadows Place, a Texas town that’s fixing to rip a resident right out of her own house. His article has plenty more about how residency restrictions are used to run people out of town and keep them out while doing nothing to improve public safety. Texas lawmakers were recently warned, “There’s a growing body of research that shows residency restrictions *increase* sex offender recidivism rates.” Still legislators in Texas and around the country keep passing these laws, apparently not enough of them have the ability to resist stupid, inhumane ideas. Good luck to KJ and her legal eagle, Richard Gladden, and kudos to Eric Dexheimer and his editors at the Austin American-Statesman for some great journalism—have a look! -Bill Dobbs, The Dobbs Wire
Austin American-Statesman | Nov. 4, 2017
Woman may be first sex offender evicted as towns adopt exclusion zones
By Eric Dexheimer
Residency restrictions reflect a belief that those convicted of sex offenses are uniquely dangerous and incapable of reform. As the number of registered sex offenders in Texas approaches 90,000, however, studies have found many of those assumptions to be false.
Studies show the vast majority of sex offenses are committed against family members or acquaintances, and that convicted sex offenders appear less likely to repeat their crime than those convicted of other offenses. That means laws based on offenders grabbing random children off playgrounds have little practical effect on public safety.
“The research does not support that residency restrictions, or exclusion zones, have any beneficial impact on safety, or recidivism, or any other objective you’re trying to achieve here,” Michele Deitch, of the University of Texas’s LBJ School of Public Affairs, told state legislators this spring. “In fact, there’s a growing body of research that shows residency restrictions increase sex offender recidivism rates” by driving offenders away from family and other support systems.
Residency restrictions have been challenged in court in recent years. Massachusetts justices compared them to the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. Yet the fear of child sex predators persists, and many citizens support residency restrictions — the wider the better. MORE:
Englewood, Colorado has a plan: Local residents peaceably going about their lives but who happen to be listed on the sex offense registry have been told to expect an official letter giving them, “30 days to clear out of the City of Englewood or be arrested.” The city severely restricts where registrants can live and a big crackdown is looming. ‘Residency restrictions’ are cast as a public safety measure but their purest purpose is the legal banishment of despised persons—99% of Englewood is off-limits. Several of those who will be ripped out of their homes are fighting back; Boulder civil rights attorney Alison Ruttenberg has just filed a federal lawsuit (Brockhausen v. Englewood 16-CV-2090) on their behalf, the latest chapter in a long-running legal saga. Two news stories are below. –Bill Dobbs
Background on residency restrictions: Earlier this year Eric Janus, law professor and former law school dean, summed it up for Minnesota Lawyer:
“I don’t think you can find any experts — or a person who actually deals with sex offenders — who thinks residency restrictions are effective,” said Janus. “It’s amazing and quite uniform. That goes from Departments of Corrections to county attorneys and prosecutors to state task forces. Everybody says it’s a bad idea. It inhibits re-entry. It inhibits stability. It inhibits supervision. And most likely it increases recidivism.”
The Denver Channel | Aug. 18, 2016
Sex offenders fearing eviction sue Englewood over residency restrictions
Restrictions leave 99% of the city off limits
By Ryan Luby
Sex offenders say they are facing eviction in Englewood due to the city’s restrictive residency restrictions. The city passed the restrictions 10 years ago but only recently moved to enforce them again. Three men who are all registered sex offenders filed a lawsuit in federal court Thursday claiming they recently were told they can no longer register at their addresses in Englewood, even though they have all registered at those addresses previously without issue.
“All three plaintiffs were informed by the Englewood Police Department that they will not be allowed to register in the City of Englewood again, and that they will be sent a certified letter instructing them that they have 30 days to clear out of the City of Englewood or be arrested,” the lawsuit claims.
The lawsuit claims those restrictions leave only 55 options out of 11,314 parcels in the entire city where sex offenders can live legally, and even in those areas the offenders may be uprooted if someone chooses to open a day care center, recreation center or swimming pool nearby. MORE:
Denver Post | Aug. 18, 2016
Sex offenders sue Englewood claiming city ordinance effectively bans them from city
Sex offenders allowed in only 1 percent of Englewood parcels
By Kirk Mitchell
Three convicted sex offenders have sued the city of Englewood in federal court claiming that its zoning ordinances effectively banish them from living in the city. They are asking the federal court to declare the Englewood Sex Offender Residency Restriction, which was created in 2006, violates federal and state constitutions as a “new, after-the-fact” punishment.
Englewood enacted its residency restrictions “based on public hysteria against sex offenders,” the lawsuit says. The city limits how close sex offenders can live to schools, day-care centers and other locations where children congregate, such as public pools. MORE: