Town Proposes Banning Sex Offenders From Public Places
A town in Maine is proposing to ban all sex offenders from congregating in public places.
The town is poised to become the state’s first municipality to enact an ordinance banning convicted sex offenders from loitering at parks, schools and other places children gather.
Attorneys from the Maine Municipal Association generally approved the proposed ordinance that town officials hope to have enacted by October, Town Manager Eugene Conlogue said Monday.
“They see no reason why we cannot do it,” Conlogue said.
The Town Council and Conlogue have been awaiting a review from MMA, an organization of state municipalities that helps cities and towns address common issues and problems, since early June.
While I’m certainly sympathetic to the aims of this legislation, which is to keep child molesters away from children, I have a number of problems with this particular law–at least, as I understand it from the article. First of all, it imposes an ex post facto punishment on convicts. When current offenders were convicted, being forbidden from enjoying public places wasn’t a part of their sentence. Now, this isn’t a Constitutional question–courts would almost certainly uphold this ordinance–but there’s an element of fairness in sentencing policy that I have a problem with.
But that’s a minor quibble. My major problem with this ordinance is the use of the term “sex offender”–which could mean anything. If the law is restricted to child molesters, I have to say that I don’t have much of a problem, given the high recidivism rate among convicted child molesters. However, as a broad legal term, “sex offender” could mean anything from child molester to a guy who got convicted of statutory rape at 18 for sleeping with his 16 year old girlfriend to the college girl who got drunk and convicted of “indecent exposure” for taking her top off. While I’m not going to lose any sleep over rapists being forbidden to visit parks, that seems like a gross injustice for relatively minor sins that get slapped with the “sex offender” label.
My final problem with it is really more on the practical lines: how is this going to be enforced? Barring another law forcing all sex offenders to wear a scarlet “S” on their shirts, how are the police, as a practical matter, going to keep “sex offenders” away from parks? This seems like another one of those laws made for the purposes of sounding tough, but not actually accomplishing anything. It’s a waste of resources to have laws on the books that can’t be enforced–and such laws in turn just breed disrespect for the legal system.
So, as a policy this doesn’t sound bad. I don’t have too many problems with a tightly written law targeted at child molesters to prevent recidivism. But this ordinance doesn’t seem to fall in that category. As such, it’s really nothing more than a worthless, feel-good piece of paper.