Is There a Rational Basis for Residency Restrictions of Sex Offenders?

Although it does not happen frequently, there are occasional legal challenges to residency restrictions of sex offenders. Minnesota Lawyer reports that there are “no” experts who find there is a rational basis for them.

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.”

 

Read more here.

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