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“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 Mitchell Hamline law professor Eric Janus. File photo
“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 Mitchell Hamline law professor Eric Janus. File photo

Janus: No experts support residency restrictions for sex offenders

As Minnesota lawmakers mull a bill that would authorize local units of government to enact tough new restrictions on where sex offenders can live, its advocates face one major obstacle: finding a single authority in the field who believes it’s a good idea.

At least, that’s the opinion of Mitchell Hamline law professor Eric Janus, who has written extensively on sex offender laws and policies.

“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.”

While that’s been the consensus among researchers for years, Janus noted, more courts across the country are finding reasons to strike down residency restrictions.

“It hasn’t been unanimous, but there’s been a bit of a tipping point. Ten years ago, the courts more or less always upheld these laws. Now they look at them much more carefully,” said Janus, who cited a spate of decisions in the last year from courts in California, New York and Massachusetts.

Does that mean that the sex offender issue is now less easily wielded as a political cudgel?

Janus ventured hopefully that it might be “a little more difficult to demagogue” these days. In part, he said, that’s because even the mass media has started to recognize that “the easy solutions might make things worse.”

Still, Janus acknowledged, many jurisdictions across the country are still passing residency restrictions and there’s no evidence that’s slowed.

In Minnesota, a recent surge in such ordinances has probably been stoked by the the continuing fight over the release of civilly committed sex offenders from the Minnesota Sex Offender Program, Janus said. As a consequence, lawmakers who cast a vote that’s perceived as sympathetic to offenders can probably still probably expect to be hammered in attack ads come election season.

“We’re very vulnerable to that in Minnesota because we have a lot of swing districts and we’re a state that can go either way,” Janus opined.

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8 comments

  1. My name is Fima, and I represent RSOL (Reform Sex offenders Law) in Minnesota.

    http://nationalrsol.org/

    Of course you are right, this law will not make anybody safe and only will create huge problems for government. Right now they start with level 3 offenders, but as we know from another states very soon lawmakers will talk about level 2, 1 and no level predatory offenders, total 17,000 people. Right now they are not on public web site.
    RSOL have a lawyer in California, and this lawyer charging cities for residency restrictions in court. Usually judges rule against cities, and this mean a huge fine. I would like to send you this link from California.
    119Murrieta Residency Restrictions Challenged in Federal Court

    http://californiarsol.org/2015/10/murrieta-residency-restrictions-challe

    There is a lawyer Janice Bellucci. She is in top 100 lawyers and she is very successful in charging cities for passing residency restrictions.

    You can read my recent posting here against International Megan law was passed by US Congress. Some my story there. The same Lawyer brought a challenge against this Federal law in court

    http://fimafimovich.blogspot.com/

  2. Thank you for publishing this article. I have six members of my extended family who were vicims of child sexual abuse. The offenders were all close family members and it was their first offense. Residency restrictions would have done nothing to protect these children. We’re running scared from the wrong people. How stupid can we be? We need to figure out how to PREVENT child sexual abuse and residency restrictions are not the answer.

  3. Those who advocate for these registries have no idea who is on them. They seem to not care that these people are the least likely to reoffend after murderers, (who can’t reoffend because most of them are in prison for life). Not to mention we have people on them for public urination, sex with a 16 year old in states like California while it is completely legal in Nevada and other states. (In fact in the CIVILIZED western world, all European Countries. UK, I believe the age of consent is 15 as is France). Why? Because teenagers have sex. Period. Locking people up isn’t going to change that fact and it has been so since the beginning of time and WILL continue for as long as humanity exists. It’s time for America to GROW UP and take a good square look in the mirror and admit that that is what most of them were doing as teenagers as well. Stop throwing people for it. All it does is fill up our jails and prisons and ruin peoples ENTIRE lives for an act that until now was considered normal. On another note, it has been proven that with therapy, those SEROUS offenders, as the years pass are decreasingly likely to reoffend and after 5, 10 years, some 15, they do not at all. These lists are just like the lists in Nazi Germany. It wasn’t only the Jews that were on that list. It was anyone deemed unacceptable to the Nazi’s. Criminals (including petty thieves), deviants, mentally handicapped, brown hair. This is where this country is going. I have heard people say that they now want lists of anyone convicted of a crime up on the internet. When you have paid for your crime, jail time, probation, it is OVER. It SHOULD be over. ENOUGH of these life sentences for these people whose families are also destroyed often by things that happened DECADES ago. Another danger is that they are passing laws and making them applicable ex post facto in states like California. They just did it and sent a teacher to jail for events allegedly occurring 15 years ago and tried him in the press to insure a plea deal. The man had no chance to defend himself and of course didn’t have millions of dollars to do so. All so the alleged victim could sue for millions of dollars. But then WHO can afford to defend themselves against these unconstitutional laws amongst other? Only the rich and they never get arrested. Just the poor and middle class. This society immediately assumes someone is guilty when accused of a sex crime. Now the backlash should come as the woman who lied in the Rolling Stone Article. She should be in jail. With almost one million people on this list do we have to wait for it to swell to 5 million before the insanity stops? Because we are well on our way with California adding approximately 400 people every month to them. End of Rant. STOP WASTING MY TAX DOLLARS.

  4. Thank you Lisa

  5. Thank you Lisa123. Perfectly said. Waste of tax dollars and even bigger waste of lives.

  6. I have been a prison minister for 22 years in the state of Texas, I have a Masters of Science in Applied Criminology with a policy emphasis from Texas A&M. I want to thank you for standing for the truth in your papers & this article. As this article states too many people, namely our legislators know the truth but will not stand for it, because it might make them unpopular, while at the same time they are perpetrating myths about sex offenders & not only continuing bad policy, but adding to it. They are also destroying lives & decreasing the social capital of their own community. Sex offenders have some of the lowest recidivism numbers of all offenders, & for the most part they are put back in prison for a technicality. I am a mentor in the prison system & many of the offenders I mentor are SO’s. I continue to support them during reentry. I wrote a paper about how sex offender policy is at direct odds with successful offender reentry factors. Most if not all of sex offender policy was created by a silver bullet mindset, because of a high profile heinous act. The problem is this policy doesn’t work, & it punishes all sex offenders even those with Romeo & Juliet cases, those who don’t even have a victim or even teenagers sexting. This policy casts a wide net & applies to everyone on the registry. We have about 85,000 sex offenders in TX alone, do you really think we have that many violent pedophiles in TX? This policy is not only costly, it’s not thought out & usually doesn’t have the manpower to support it. It punishes whole families & reduces this population to living in substandard neighborhoods where crime is high. The policy makes getting viable employment almost impossible, & restricts housing. It also isolates those on parole & registrants from healthy social ties, keeping them from their family & children. It can also keep them from a better education. Also the parole offices & parole officers have too much power & the rules & restrictions are not uniform. I’ve had SO’s out on parole & doing great & then their parole officer gets changed & they have a whole different set of standards & rules & we end up back at square one, it’s disheartening. Most of the time they live in fear over even the littlest infraction, such as getting stuck in a detour & being re-routed past a school. The PO’s threaten them with jail time, polygraphs, ankle monitors, whatever seems to strike their mood. The group counseling they must attend is sickening. I see so much discouragement, suicides, those re-offending because the hurdles are too high to get across. It sickens me & saddens me how human lives & families are jerked around & reduced to a scarlet letter & are stamped a non-person. Wake up America, our husbands, sons, uncles, brothers are filling up the registries & soon it will touch you if it hasn’t already. Residency restrictions are a myth, as most sexual abuse takes place within the family, or with close social ties. We need to concentrate our resources on educating people, not more bad policy. Check out the policy, then check out criminal theory, all sex offender policy increases crime & criminal behavior. We need to open our eyes!

  7. Thanks, Eric Janis. And thank you, Lisa123, for your excellent comments.

    Getting the word out, as you are doing, is our best line of defense. Sooner or later–sooner, we hope–the tipping point will be reached. Most people will have learned about the injustice and ineffectiveness of the SORNA registry laws.

    Did everyone see the outstanding coverage by THE NEW YORKER last month? Those stories would melt the heart of the meanest Grinch on the meanest judicial bench in the land.
    THE NEW YORKER “The List”, March 14, 2016.

  8. Super, super excellent; thank you, Dr. Janus, and thank you Cheryl for summing it up so neatly and for everyone else who has thus far posted. There is nothing relating to sexual offense issues as totally devoid of factual support as are residency restrictions.

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