Sex Offender Vagabond

Let’s be clear – I dislike sex offenders, especially those who commit sex offenses against minors, as much as any member of the Georgia General Assembly.  Those who commit such heinous acts as soliciting minors for sexual prostitution, should be prosecuted and punished severely, as Georgia law has for many years provided.  

But let’s be equally clear – passing legislation piling on endless restrictions and burdens on those who already have served prison terms and who remain subject to extensive monitoring, is neither responsible nor effective.  Yet that’s what the Georgia General Assembly has continued to do. 

 The Georgia Supreme Court in late 2007 declared unconstitutional a 2006 state law prohibiting registered sex offenders from residing within 1,000 feet of a school, church, day care center, school bus stop, or anywhere else “where minors congregate.”  Undaunted, Georgia legislators continue to enact — and require local law enforcement officials to enforce — laws making it virtually impossible for persons convicted of sex offenses involving minors to reside in the state.

 Most recently, a small number of persons who are required to register as sex offenders with the local sheriff (in this case, Cobb County), and who find it impossible to rent or purchase a home anywhere that does not run afoul of the restrictions on where they can live, have taken to pitching tents in certain park areas.  Not surprisingly, since there are ordinances prohibiting people from living in tents on government-owned park lands, Sheriff’s officers are properly making them leave.

 Clearly, Georgia laws dealing with sex offenders need to be amended to ensure they comply with fundamental constitutional guarantees such as due process and equal protection.  Regrettably, this has proved extremely difficult.  Many legislators are unwilling or unable to withstand the criticism that in thus amending the laws, they are “coddling child molesters.” 

 In fact, addressing both federal and state constitutional issues in amending Georgia’s laws in this area is not hard.  However, the effort must properly focus on tough, but reasonable restrictions; and not degenerate into a game of one-upsmanship by legislators trying to prove they can be harder on offenders than the next person. 

 Several provisions in the current state laws clearly are ripe for modification.

 Forcing sex registrants to avoid living within 1,000 feet of “any area where minors congregate” creates a condition virtually impossible for anyone to meet.  Minors can – and often do – “congregate” in areas their parents and others least expect them to do so.  A house, an apartment, or a parking lot may be free from such “congregating” one day, but might the very next day become a magnet for teens hanging out. Considering that the law already prohibits sex offender registrants from living near schools, day care centers and churches – and requires frequent reporting of their whereabouts to law enforcement — this additional broad restriction is hardly essential.

 Another reasonable – and necessary – change the legislature should make (and which later court decisions will likely force it to make), is to tighten the language regarding what sort of conviction triggers the reporting, residency and employment requirements for convicted sex offenders.  The current law includes anyone who has been convicted of any state or federal offense “which, by its nature, is a sexual offense against a minor.”  Exactly what sort of activity is covered by that language is unclear, considering that all manner of sex offenses involving minors are already specified in the very same section.  The constitutional infirmity of a statute being “void for vagueness” perhaps should be included as required reading for state legislators. 

 Enacting laws that protect society against sexual predators that at the same time satisfy constitutional requirements that have been around since 1791 when the Bill of Rights was adopted, does not require knowledge of rocket science.  It does require a sense of fairness and realism that unfortunately often appears lacking in our state legislature.

58 comments Add your comment

deborahinAthens

October 5th, 2009
6:19 am

“Enacting laws that protect society…and satisfy constitutional requirements” regarding ANY issue requires fairness, realism, and intelligence, none of which our legislature seen to possess, yet the “intelligent” people in Georgia keep re-electing the the bozos. And we wonder why our school system is always 49th or 50th, why our teenage pregnancy rate is usually in the top five in the nation, why our traffic is the worst….the list goes on and on. In a democracy/republic, the citizens get exactly the government they deserve.

Woodrow

October 5th, 2009
6:50 am

Marisa Armagh

October 5th, 2009
6:57 am

I am surprise Bob, at you stance on this. Constitutionally?? They gave up their rights when they stalked children. My heart does not hear their cries for “justice”. That sounds like some bull crap the ACLU would throw out there. Why all the concern for sex offenders?
If they must amend the laws, lets amend them to either NEVER let them out or sentence them to death. Kudos to Georgia for ridding themselves of this evil And should one happen on to my property where I reside with my 5 children, I will use my Second Amendment right to send the son of a bitch straight to hell, where he belongs, with his own kind.

John

October 5th, 2009
7:28 am

And what of those sex offenders whose only offense was having sex with his or her minor significant other rather than waiting one more year? would you want that person staying in jail forever or sitting in an electric chair? if you make a law for one, you must make a law for all.

Mike

October 5th, 2009
7:58 am

What I think is funny: Does the Gov’t think that an offender cannot walk or drive 1001 feet? Marisa, I am sure you like the “Patriot Act”, as it is people like you that will ALWAYS trade your rights for “security”.

Sex Offender Issues

October 5th, 2009
7:59 am

http://sexoffenderissues.blogspot.com

I am totally against ANY form of abuse to any human being. And I believe anyone who murders another human being should be in prison for the rest of their life (until they die). I do not believe in the death penalty for anyone. Also, I believe that once a person has been in and out of prison and has served their probation and parole, done everything required of them, and what was signed on the “contract” when they took the plea, none of this should be required of them, none of it. The state cannot tear up a contract like this, which they are basically doing, it’s unconstitutional. Many people, if they had known they would be faced with all this, they would have NOT taken a plea deal. And the courts are very aware of this and this is why they made it retroactive; thus violating ex-post facto laws! They should be allowed to get on with their life as if nothing happened. I’m not saying for it to be removed from their record, but, the crime should be removed from public view and background checks, they should not have any more restrictions, shaming, etc. If they commit another crime, then they face a lot more punishment, like everything else is treated.

When an ex-offender is forced to move from his/her home, thus having to sell it, cannot find another home within the law due to the residency “buffer” zones, get fired from their jobs due to being on the registry, cannot find a new job due to being on the registry, their husband/wife lose their jobs due to a significant other being on the registry, their children lose their friends and are harassed and bullied in school due to a family member being on the registry, thus destroying the children’s lives, ex-offenders are forced into homelessness and to live under bridges, harassed by police, neighbors and probation/parole officers, have to wear “I’m a sex offender T-shirt” or have a neon green license plate on ALL their cars, have “sex offender” on their drivers license and forced to renew their licenses every year, forced from shelters during tornadoes or hurricanes, cannot give blood at some places due to being discriminated against for being on the sex offender registry, denied housing due to being on the registry, signs placed in their yards inviting harassment and ridicule from the neighbors, forced to move when the neighbors start picketing outside the ex-offenders home, the list is endless.

I THINK THIS IS CRUEL AND UNUSUAL PUNISHMENT, BEYOND THE EXTREME!

Andrew D.

October 5th, 2009
8:02 am

When the story broke that the sex-offender in California kidnapped and concealed a girl for nearly two decades, people cried that the system was broken and failed to keep people safe. Well, the system is broken, and for the reasons Barr stated. Over-regulation of sex offenders puts people on the sex offender registry for nonviolent–and many times, consensual–crimes. Many times this includes minors and 18 year old boyfriends (who may only be a few years apart). Now, minors are even being charged with dissemination of child pornography for sending lewd pictures of themselves to boyfriends!

By requiring these people to register as sex offenders, it requires law enforcement to use resources tracking these people who made youthful mistakes, and distracts them from pursuing the real criminals.

There comes a point when trying to do “good” ends up causing more harm. Barr hit the nail on the head with this one. While it takes some moxie to pen an article at all defensive of sex offenders, Barr in essence is actually tougher on sex crimes than those in the Georgia Congress.

Jeff

October 5th, 2009
8:12 am

Or the slow streaking college student. The kid that was streaking with several others but was the only one caught. He was tried & convicted as a sex offender. Or the person taking a leak behind a grain elevator.

This is a spot the law needs to be changed, These types of offenses should not be charged as sex offenses that was not the intent of the law when it was being wrtitten. It endangers the lives of people improperly labeled sex offenders & diminishes the legitamacy of the sex offender label. Just about anybody I’ve talked to on the subject knows of somebody that was improperly labeled. Personally I only want to know about those that should never have been released from incarceration. I personally do not believe that sex offenders can be rehabilitated. They should do the right thing and exterminate themselves.

VDog

October 5th, 2009
8:19 am

Enter your comments hereInsane registry laws and restrictions did not prevent the perverts, Philip Garrido AND HIS WIFE from doing what they did! The registry laws, and especially the residency / work place restrictions, have done far more harm than good. Forget about all the cases of vigilantism and suicide; forget about the fact that while these laws are proposed to protect the children, they include children, while a huge percentage of those on the list committed crimes that had nothing to do with children; forget about the fact that study after study has proven these laws not only are ineffective, but have actually made matters worse. Forget about the fact that upon release from custody, sex offenders have one of the lowest recidivism rates, not the highest. In fact those who receive counseling and treatment have outstanding records versus those convicted of other violent crimes! The fact is the registry and any restrictions should be limited to those who are proven child molesters and pedophiles; that Law Enforcement could handle and monitor effectively. Do you seriously believe a committed pedophile cannot walk or drive 500, 1000, 2500, 5000 feet or more? Jaycee Lee Dugard was abducted miles from where Philip Garrido lived!

I am sure we will see comments from hysterical, uninformed individual(s) who will suggest that all those on the registry should be locked up for life or worse and say there is no rehabilitation for these people. And for a few they are right, we need to focus on those! Once a person has done their time that should be it. That is the foundation of this great country and its legal system. Don’t like it, move to China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, or wherever individual rights are ignored. If a person is a pedophile, lock them up for a long time and provide treatment. Treatment not working, keep them locked up. Many families are being destroyed for political expediency; children of those on the registry are being abused and ostracized at school. Whole families are forced into isolation and restricted from the work place. If the registry is to truly protect the children, then let’s focus on the pedophiles and child molesters’. Get rid of the residency/work place restrictions, focus on the loitering laws. Let the rest on the registry re-assimilate into society after they have done their time, become solid, productive citizens; part of the solution not the problem. The facts, (and the Garrido case) as well as virtually all of the research, and study after study have proven what we are doing now, mostly for political expediency and to appease hysterical uninformed parents is not working and is in fact making matters worse!

Sex Offender Issues

October 5th, 2009
8:20 am

Also, you do not have to be charged with a “sex crime” to be placed on the registry. If you kidnap a child, then you are on the registry.

VDog

October 5th, 2009
8:23 am

Enter your comments hereWith regard too the Sexual Offender Registration laws, the public dissemination of public information in such a way as to guarantee public humiliation, loss of privacy, reckless endangerment and threat of harm (even extinction), risk & humiliation of innocent family members and fellow employees, destruction of innocent children’s lives, has been ruled permissible by the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS)… However, the raping of individuals rights to residency, protection from banishment, right to affordable housing, restrictions on gainful employment, restraints against freedom of movement and lawful assembly, destruction of ability to assimilate into society, restrictions from access to public services and facilities, and general banishment from society, even retroactively after conviction and/or after a person has served their sentence, has yet to be ruled on. Please ACLU and others, please give the SCOTUS the opportunity to unconstitutionally screw up that ruling too.

pd

October 5th, 2009
8:55 am

I think we should do away with all minimum sentencing, maximum sentencing, three strikes your out, zero tolerance, and other things that limit the the ability of a judge to use common sense.

Judges are elected officials. They should be allowed to use their own descretion in sentencing. There should be guidelines for suggestion, but let them make their own final decision. If, we the people, think a judge is unfair, let us vote him/her out of office.

Dodgehilton

October 5th, 2009
8:59 am

If there is any consistency in all of this it is that the laws just keep on getting nuttier and nuttier. Our lawmakers seem intent on showing the public that they really don’t care at all about “public safety” or “that no child gets abused in MY state again” but that the bottom line for their existence is to appease the uninformed public in regard to sex offenders so that, come election year, they can get up on their soapboxes and proudly proclaim “look what I did for YOU”. The tide seems to be turning against them though, since most of the voting public now recognizes how foolish these laws are and how they have made a mockery of “rule of law” in this country. One wonders what they will saw as they are forced to repeal them one by one? “Well, we knew all along that they wouldn’t work but…” I personally hope that they keep on passing this silly stuff until it becomes apparent, even to people like Marisa above, who is so concerned about the safety of her children that she can’t see that the very law she is promoting is the same on that is putting hers and others children at risk, that something MUST be done about this before more and more unconstitutionally dangerous precedents are set and we are ALL at risk of losing the very basic rights we expect as Americans.

Sam Caldwell

October 5th, 2009
9:09 am

The fact that everyone focuses on restriction of sex offenders, but not to any actual danger or recidivism statistics demonstrates that this issue is not about protecting the public. This is a matter of punishment and vindication, which runs afoul of the ex post facto clause.

That said, one might be interested to note how the US Department of Justice released statistics some time back which show that of the sex offenders released in 1994 ONLY 5% returned to prison for a sex crime.

FIVE PERCENT does not represent a significant public threat to justify tens of millions of dollars in reactionary legislation.

M Anthony

October 5th, 2009
9:43 am

Well you folks elected these zealous morons based on these platforms. What did you think was going to happen?

jconservative

October 5th, 2009
9:43 am

Good column Bob. This is an issue we have struggled with and will continue to struggle with for a few more years.

Mike – “Does the Gov’t think that an offender cannot walk or drive 1001 feet?” Good point Mike. Yes I believe that is actually what the legislators think. Pass the law, brag to the voters, stand for reelection, & probably get reelected. And the voters actually believe something has been done.
————–
Marisa – “I will use my Second Amendment right to send the son of a bitch straight to hell…” The 2nd Amendment does not say a word about when you can pull the trigger. The SCOTUS has agreed to hear a case on State regulation of guns in this term – McDonald v. Chicago, 08-1521.
You might keep your eye open for this case. In the meantime here is a hint on how it will probably turn out from Justice Scalia’s decision in the Heller case: “Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose…”

Dodgehilton

October 5th, 2009
9:59 am

M Anthony makes a very valid point. The voters of this country, and in particular Georgia, are the ones who are ultimately responsible for this mess and are getting exactly what is deserved since they are the ones who elected these “morons” who made it very clear in their election speeches what their intentions were in regard to sex offender laws. But, maybe we should cut the voters a small break because they were only reacting to what they were told by their politicians, lawmakers, and media. Hitler said the bigger the lie the easier it is to get people to believe it. Well, they sure pulled a good one on the public, didn’t they? Maybe, since the voters hold the ultimate responsibility for this mess, come election time they will remember how it turned out and hold their elected officials accountable by voting their collective a**’s out of office.

William

October 5th, 2009
10:02 am

Marisa Armagh

October 5th, 2009
6:57 am

Then put them to death for their crime but do not give them a sentence they have completed and continue to punish them. That is not our system of justice. Personally if those men did that to my daughter I would not call 911 or seek justice in the courts. They should fear me more than the courts.

Billy Bob

October 5th, 2009
10:20 am

Well stated, Mr. Barr.

Tonia

October 5th, 2009
10:21 am

When you have laws that do not distinguish between child molesters and teenagers having consensual sex – something is wrong here. No parent wants their children harmed in anyway, but if law enforcement is overwhelmed because they are monitoring non-violent offenders, then who is really “watching” our children? We need to reform these laws so that only those that are a true threat to our children are listed as “sex offenders.”

Gregg

October 5th, 2009
10:42 am

Mr. Barr for once I agree with you however with reservations. You see I am a real hypocrite on this issue. I do believe they are being treated unfairly however I do not want them in my neighborhood. I do understand the plight of those teenagers that had sex with someone one year their junior and agree they should not be handle in the manner they are, however as a parent the other ones scare me to death.
Last week I read the story of the little boy who begged for his life and I put myself in his fathers’ shoes and I honestly do not think I am man enough to hear the grizzly details of what they did to that little boy.
I think there needs to be a list that is published for kids that commit these “crimes” and at a certain point they drop off their record. Because I had a friend who was convicted of this same act with his girlfriend while we were in high becuase his girlfriends’ mom caught them in the act. He is still on the list 23 years later, even though he is now married to her. they brought some property that no one else wanted and built their dream home on it. After three years in the house, the county brought the reaming property acoss the street and built a school on it. He was told by his probation officer that he could no longer live on the property becuase of this fact. I thought this was unfair but it was the law without any flexibilties to help him out.

Remember...?

October 5th, 2009
10:49 am

Remember when Bob at that cheese on the Borat show?

That was awesome.

F-105 Thunderchief

October 5th, 2009
11:14 am

Sex offenders cannot ever “serve their time,” in that they remain under lifetime restrictions. And, since this population has a high rate of recidivism, perhaps the best solution is life prison sentences for these people.

Chief Wiggum

October 5th, 2009
11:31 am

@Marisa:

You said “They gave up their rights when they stalked children.”

Really? How is that? Don’t think I am defending child molesters, but I want to know what basis you have for saying they gave up their constitutional rights?

——

@Tonia: You are correct. I also have a lot of concern for the growing list of offenses that can land someone on a sex offender registry. Children having sex with other children (17 year old boy with a 14 year old girl, for example) can get labeled as that, and can ruin a person’s life forever. It also happens with girls the same way, there was a story about a year ago, similar situation for a woman who had sex with a boy when she was around 17, and he was around 15…and she was painted as a sex offender, with the lifetime stigma attached.

Richard

October 5th, 2009
11:51 am

I agree with William. If some perdator were to molest one of my grandkids (or any other family member), the smartest thing he could do would be go to the nearest cop and confess to every crime he ever heard of all the way back to Lincoln’s assination, and beg for life without parole because I won’t go inside after him. But if I do get him, he will be a dead man (and by the time he falls down he will have forgotten everything he ever new except pain).

However, that being said, seems to me that there is a big difference between two young people (say one one day older than the age of consent, and the other one day younger) having sex. If they are caught, the older is a sex offender for life, with same same restrictions as true predators. Seems pretty da&n dumb to me.

Dodgehilton

October 5th, 2009
12:22 pm

F105 Thunderchief, what “high rate of recidivism” are you referring to? In a study done by the US Department of Justice, referred to in a different post, only 5% of sexual offenders ever re-offend with another sex crime. That’s much much less than other types of crime, such as repeat drug offenders or violent crimes. What you are are saying is that, based on what you have been told by the media, sex offenders have high re-offense rates. Well, sadly the media spins the news to suit their own agenda, which is to get high ratings, and often at the expense of truth.

If the myriad of sex offender laws that have been put into effect since the whole registry thing got started many many years ago were actually doing any good, shouldn’t there be some concrete evidence of that by now? Shouldn’t children be much safer today due to the restrictions placed on sex offenders over the last few years? Does anyone have any figures to suggest that these laws are working? No, they don’t because they aren’t. Sex offender laws are an example of locking the barn door after the horse has already gotten out of the barn. They do nothing but label offenders AFTER they have already committed the offense, not identify them beforehand and prevent the offense in the first place. A more effective approach to providing safety for the public would be to identify the ones most likely to abuse and take measures to protect children from that group. With that in mind, most, and by that I mean documented figures and statistics demonstrate, that a LARGE percentage, in some studies as much as 90% or more, of children who are abused are done so by either a FAMILY MEMBER or a friend of the family. In other words, it’s someone known to them and not the stranger who moves in down the street they need to be aware of. If our law makers are truly concerned with the welfare and safety of children and not in using this issue to get votes, as they say they are, then they should be trying to protect children from the ones that they are in the most danger from, which are family members and friends of the family. Of course I doubt they’d be very successful in getting any laws passed that could accomplish this since they’d have to take children away from their families to do so and that certainly won’t make you popular on election day. (Which is what it is all about, right Mr. Keen?)

The bottom line here is that all of the BS legislation is accomplishing zero as far as “public safety” is concerned because it doesn’t do anything to protect children from risk AT ALL. But it does sound good in an election year so I suspect that unconstitutional laws will continue to get passed until public opinion swings in the other direction and all of a sudden judges, who apparently haven’t either haven’t bothered to read The Constitution or don’t have the ba**s to stand up for it, will realize that it really wasn’t constitutional after all. However, this will happen AFTER people have lost their jobs and homes due to unfair housing and work restrictions that are a part of this legislation.

Don’t expect any apologies or compensation though.

Rule of law?

Huh. What a joke.

Emily

October 5th, 2009
12:44 pm

There is one across-the-board fact about sex offenders: if given the opportunity, they WILL do it again. And again. They will never be rehabilitated.

The laws in place are justified. Rapists and child molesters favor a convenient victim. They are known to victimize women and children that they live or work near.

Sex offenders need to take the hint and get out of Georgia.

Chris Broe

October 5th, 2009
1:08 pm

Grading Barr: A juvenile treatment toward the major crime of sex offense against minors. It’s a shared comfort to know that Bob Barr “dislikes” sex offenders. (Child abuse is not nice.)

The AJC coddles clods on it’s writing staff. How about a law against allowing coddled clods to write within 500 pixels of a reader?

Barr’s Sex Offenders need not be afraid. The very idea that a grown man would preface a piece about child-abuse with the limits of his own acquiescence toward rehabilitive options, neighborhood watches, and prolonged caution is creepier than the recent Letterman address. Worse, Barr misused the old “rocket science” metaphor when estimating the socio-political constraints on future legislative remedies. Intolerable. Creepy. Stupid.

How about Letterman not being able to confess without getting laughs! “Why is THAT funny”, he pleaded. How about the impatient look of disgust Letterman flashed to his audience. Did you notice that there was no difference in his delivery?

Letterman’s act has always begged the question: “Why was THAT funny?”

Letterman is correct about his audience: they laugh at everything. It’s a curse for Letterman. It obviously doesn’t matter what he’s saying; the white-collar nimrods and water-cooler nomads in the audience will laugh.

(Rocket scientists probably laugh at Letterman too).

Gregg

October 5th, 2009
1:10 pm

@ Emily, where do you propose they go? That solution does not solve the problem. We need something more concrete than having them moved. If you box a cat in the corner it is going to come out fighting. If you make them feel the only place they can live is prison, they why wouldn’t they do something to get sent there.
The law should take into account some basic things such as age at the time of offense, length of time after offense and the act (consensual oral sex will get you pleaced on this list).

Gonzo

October 5th, 2009
1:13 pm

Well said Mr. Barr, thank you.

Dodgehilton

October 5th, 2009
1:36 pm

Emily, a few facts.

First, as has already been pointed out in other posts, the term “sex offender” is a very BROAD description and includes many different offenses, from peeing in public to raping ten people. Now, I don’t particularly care if someone wants to pee in public or if they become a “repeat offender” and piss all over the place, but I do think they shouldn’t have to abide by the same restrictions as someone who rapes ten people, do you? The point here is that since there are no distinctions made in the law as to what constitutes a dangerous “sex offender” versus your typical garden-variety fence post pisser and what restrictions, as a result of having that label, sex offenders have to go by, no true measure exists as to who is dangerous and who is not, at least as far as the sex offender registry is concerned. And that puts you and your family in a very dangerous position, since it is only those on the registry that you are being told to look out for.

I’ve already address this alleged high recidivism rate in a different post. See above.

“They will never be rehabilitated.” Please supply your credentials to make such a broad, to use your phrase, “across-the-board” statement. Do you treat sex offenders? Are you a board-certified therapist who is qualified, based on evidence and research, to make such a judgment? Or are you a prophet, gifted with insight and able to predict the future in regard to how thousands of other individuals will conduct their lives? I suspect instead that you are simply parroting what you have been fed by your politicians and the media.

“The laws in place are justified.” If they were producing any measurable results in regard to public safety you’d be correct. However, these laws have been in place for quite a while now and I haven’t seen any headlines proclaiming the dramatic decrease in sex crimes over the years. Given the extent of the controversy that these laws have caused, it makes sense to me that IF they were being effective the lawmakers who wrote them would be trumpeting these figures from the rooftops to justify their actions. So far I’ve yet to see anything like that in the media.

“Rapists and child molesters favor a convenient victim. They are known to victimize women and children that they live or work near.” Again, what is source for this information? If you mean that children and women are victimized by people KNOWN to them, such as family members or friends of the family, then yes, you are correct, and by a large percentage. But you are incorrect when you say that most sex crimes are committed by people that live or work near their victims, since only one in ten sex crimes are committed in that fashion. This is an example of more misinformation being fed to the public.

(As a side note, Georgia’s Sex Offender Review Board, the body that is responsible for assigning risk levels to all sex offenders so they should know, recently released figures indicating that only FIVE PERCENT of all registered sex offenders pose any real threat to the public. Yet the public continues to scream for more and more regulations on ALL of them. Couldn’t law enforcement better serve public safety if they only have to keep an eye on the five out of a hundred that are dangerous rather than the other ninety-five that aren’t?)

As to your last statement, that sex offenders should take the hint and get out of Georgia, I’m sure given the choice between living in a tent in the woods or living in another state that they’d prefer the later. In fact, the originator of this legislation, Mr. Jerry Keen, state Representative from Brunswick, stated that that was his express purpose: to make it so “onerous” for a sex offender to live in his state that they’d pack up and leave. Well, apparently neither he or yourself are very familiar with the law. A person on probation or parole can’t simply just “take the hint” and get out of Georgia due to the fact that they are ON probation or parole in the first place. Just a minor detail, I know, but one that makes it virtually impossible to relocate. And that, taken together with the fact that due to the huge stigma associated with not only being on probation or parole but a registered sex offender at that, most states are reluctant to even accept someone’s petition to have their probation transferred to their state. That kind of thinking, let’s just get rid of them and not have to deal with it, is what has made this whole mess. Out of sight, out of mind?

Emily, nothing personal here, you should get your facts straight before you expound your wisdom to us. Politicians with agendas of their own count on the public swallowing such nonsense hook, line and sinker, as apparently you and others have done.

ieee

October 5th, 2009
1:36 pm

Emily (October 5th, 2009 12:44 pm):

You are wrong to the point that you are lying. The facts about recidivism are quite clear. People need to know when they hear someone like you say something like you did (and will), they can immediately stop listening and avoid you. Reality-challenged people like you are the root of the problem of these counterproductive, idiotic, useless, and anti-American laws.

And I see by your statement of “Sex offenders need to take the hint and get out of Georgia” that you are also a person who knows how to find an effective solution to a real problem. Because, you know, your suggestion is totally feasible and will probably work.

I am assuming that you think having “sex offenders” live in Georgia is a problem somehow (despite the facts that show otherwise, I will add). If that is what you think, then that makes you really a worthless piece of ______. Because your “solution” to your little made-up problem is to push it off onto someone else. Quite a good American you are. That is exactly what I expect from people who support these laws.

Richard

October 5th, 2009
2:10 pm

As I said earlyer, there is a difference between a true predator and youthful indescrition. I would be in favor of vigilante justice for the predator. However to apply the same standard to youthful indescrition seems supremely stupid to me.

clyde

October 5th, 2009
3:11 pm

As we continue to add more and more people to the sex offenders registry it gets more and more meaningless until, someday,it will have to be abandoned in it’s entirety because it will be totally unworkable.Before that day comes some smart people need to sit down and come up with a solution as to just who gets on the regisrty and who doesn’t. I do need to know that a dangerous sex offender lives at 163 Elm street.I do not need to know that a 17 year old that had sex with his underage girlfriend lives there.Unless this gets straightened out,I’m not going to know either in a short while.Put a grade on these people and register the proven bad ones.Leave the rest alone until they prove themselves one way or the other.

john

October 5th, 2009
4:06 pm

I usually only agree with Mr. Barr 50 % of the time . He is 100% correct this time what is he going to do about it.
By the way when you do something wrong like breaking the law you are not supposed to loose your rights. You are supposed to pay some time, some penalty and my be loose some perks of life.
The elected government of Georgia is so corrupt and backwards it may never catch up to the rest of the world.

[...] AtlantaJournalConstitution Blogs : The Barr Code – Sex Offender Vagabond. [...]

Dan Greenfield

October 5th, 2009
6:35 pm

For the serious offender who is sentenced to five or ten years in prison (the child rapist probably will never get out of prison), even after he finishes his sentence, he typically remains on probation for many, many more years (often 20 or 30 years). This means he must keep his probation officer informed of where he lives AND where he works. Other terms of probation can include periodic mental health evaluations and work restrictions. If he violates a term of that probation, he goes back to prison. This, I think, is generally sufficient. I have a problem with restricting where offenders can live, and forcing them to wear a scarlet letter for the rest of their lives. Also, the restrictions can become so oppressive that they drive some offenders “underground”, which defeats the purpose of trying to “keep tabs” on them.

As an attorney, I occasionally represent men (and women) who were convicted of a relatively minor offense twenty years ago, received a little jail time and/or a few years probation, and at age 40 or 45 are still being punished (along with their families, who are completely innocent). A typical situation is a guy in his early 20s who was convicted of molestation or statutory rape (meaning consensual sex that is illegal because of age) of a 15-year-old girl (I’m often told “she looked 18″ or “said she was 18″). This is not as clearly harmless as the situation of two high schoolers, but is it deserving of a lifetime of persecution and shame? Yet, often, there is nothing I can do for these people; they must continue to register.

Only a few years ago, Georgia had a very sensible law that allowed a sex offender to petition the courts for removal from “The List” after 10 years, if he had not gotten into any trouble. This was unavailable to those convicted of certain specific crimes (like forcible rape and aggravated child molestation) that put them in the category of “dangerous sexual predators” or “violent sexual offenders”. Otherwise, it was up to a judge, with input from law enforcement, mental health professionals, the victim, etc., as to whether the offender could come off the list after ten years. Unfortunately, in its zeal to get votes, the Legislature has gutted this provision, and except in a narrow category of cases, getting off the Register is impossible. At the very least, the Legislature should turn back the clock a few years and reinstate a meaningful “ten-year petition” option.

One more thing. The Georgia Supreme Court had ruled that these particular “retroactive” laws are NOT unconstitutional, because the offenders are not being punished, but merely “regulated.” What has been held unconstitutional is making the restrictions so onerous and ever-shifting (particularly regarding where you can live) that they are impossible to comply with. So, don’t expect much help from the courts on this.

Dan Greenfield
Bremen, GA

Keith Richard Radford Jr

October 5th, 2009
7:24 pm

Sex laws have been built on misconceptions and myth.
The Supreme Court just ruled on sex offender laws where some factions of our government think by some inert reasoning that sex offender should be quarantined like some virus steaming from Draconian/Islamic radical view that sex offenders should be executed. I have seen for myself, video taken in another country where a sex offender was placed on a pole much like the Catholics use to use a pyramid shaped object and have them sit on it and spin, the pole travels through the body looking for the throat but if not found its ok because the sharpened end of the pole will come out somewhere to the delight of these very strange people who think such sad thoughts. The heritage of the act is in its self a brutal throwback to violent uneducated people who are so obsessed with any sex they can find & the only way to deal with this kind of “hierarchy” of historic hysteria. A word taken from hysterectomy, hysteria is tied to castration used to make animals less threatening which clearly explains the atmosphere we have made for our selves.
Anyway we are supposed to be the most advanced nation and we still have a death penalty when the rest of the world except for some nations we are still warring with, selling weapons too, {think!} while other nations went home our weapons dealers and torture lovers delighting in support for the death of people they don’t know or want to simply because they don’t know how to get money with out taking it from someone by force. Is that supposed to include mutilations? In my humble opinion that alone are terrorist activities as much as severed hands, ears, heads, or making a case with nothing more than an obsession justified by lies.
The truth about the sex offender registry will come out soon enough. When it does, People will see how the use of the registry was created, and by exactly who and why and the devastation it has created and the worthlessness of the use of it. It’s origin in the Jim Crow hanging laws that brought disgrace to our nation allowing thieves and murderous societal bigots who have trashed any shot at making good of a program in its design to make money destroying our nation and its people. We can not play god and we can not survive using this behavior model because we are compounding the problem since the numbers increasing to include the children they purport to protect.
It’s a ruse designed by people who are getting rich off the doctoring, castration/hysterectomy/health care/physic care of people through sex laws that have gone wild. What about the people who are being used by the Medicare programs that requires these mutilations for both men and woman after they take their means of support? Digging around in someone’s genitalia because you want what a weaker nation? Can’t you see? You have created the model and it is worthless! Why don’t we just indiscriminately kill people we don’t know? That is statically the next sex offender, because over 90% of all new offences are committed by someone “not” on the sex offender registry and the numbers are increasing not decreasing so as a behavior model this is really worthless.
So what is the use of such laws as the sex offender registry other than to terrorize people? With the murder of so many sex offenders and the continued disregard for life by the use of the registry it will be no time at all before the federal government will be held liable for their deaths through federal court.
In a nation where a statement may have a double or triple meaning and our entire linage can be traced through mud, guts, and beer it’s nice once in a while to get the picture of what is meant instead of what some thinks someone may have implied being translated by greed. So it is from the trenches to the hill. Remember the game where someone says something in someone’s ear then passes it the same way to the next; the person advocating such destructive laws are the ones who need to be section 8 by simple brake down of the issue not the sex offenders. Lets be clear, I have voted for you but it will not likely every hapen again. If you have anything to do with the sex offender regestry you need to stop it. Best regards

Dodgehilton

October 5th, 2009
7:56 pm

I appreciate Mr. Greenfield’s comments. As an attorney he gets to see first hand how destructive and stupid this type of legislation is on families and offenders themselves.

I would add to his comments on the constitutionality of sex offender laws being applied retroactively in the name of “regulation” that just last week the Kentucky State Supreme Court ruled 5 to 2 that their sex offender law was being applied unconstitutionally in the case of making people who had been convicted of sex offenses prior to the start date of their new law comply with all of the new restrictions of that law. In short, their judges apparently have no trouble at all identifying the difference between added punishment, something the Georgia Supreme Court judges apparently couldn’t or didn’t want to see, which is a clear violation of both the United States and every individual states constitutions, and so called “regulatory measures”, which are certainly not meant to be added punishment. (Yeah, tell that to the people who lost jobs, homes, property, etc. because they either lived or worked too close to a school, day care, church, etc. and were convicted of a sex crime years ago.) Sadly the Georgia legislature still contends that it is in the right and the Georgia Supreme Court has, up until now, backed them on it. But, the case of the illegal retroactive application of Georgia’s sex offender law is before a Federal District Judge now (Clarence Williams) and a decision is expected soon. It’s sad that it takes a Federal judge to step in and show Georgia what the rest of the country, such as Kentucky, is already beginning to see, how that these laws are not only unproductive and harmful to the very people they are purported to protect, but that they are unconstitutionally based and blatantly illegal acts.

Roscoe

October 5th, 2009
8:15 pm

These insane laws are making Marietta & Georgia the alughingstock of the nation. My brother-in-law who is a guest in a marietta home sent this article as a joke to all of his up-North family, including his daughter and wife under the heading “MY NEW TOWN”. Jay Leno had a joke about it two nights in a row as did Thursday’s SNL Weekend Update. To those who above who don’t realize that many qualify for the sex offender tag because they were a 17-yr old boy or girl having sex with their 15-yr old girlfriend or boyfriend or because, in the commission of another crime, held an underage employee hostage for a few minutes, they should check their facts.

Dodgehilton

October 5th, 2009
11:03 pm

I may draw some heat for this but I just have to say something about the death of Christopher Barrios and that in Brunswick today a jury found his killer and rapist guilty. Now, to refresh everyone’s memory, Barrios was killed and raped by a registered sex offender. So far this sounds like the typical sex offender story the media and politicians would use to further convince the public that it is in the interest of public safety to keep these people as far away as possible from potential victims and that in order to do that it’s ok to step on a few “constitutional rights” of these people because, after all, this is a good example of what they regularly do when left unchecked and monitored, right?

Well, here’s what happened. Barrios was indeed killed and raped by a registered sex offender who had recently moved into a trailer park to live with his mother and father. (His father was also a registered sex offender and by law they shouldn’t have been allowed to live together but you’ll see why it was allowed in a minute.) The boy’s killer, a man named Edenfield, lived in a different part of town and up until that time hadn’t done anything wrong at all to anyone since his release from prison. But, when the Georgia Assembly passed its new sex offender law back in 2006 and made it retroactive to anyone who had committed a sex offense since 1996, Edenfield had to move because his residence was within 1000 feet of a school, daycare, or church. With no where else to go he had to move in with his mother and father in the trailer park where they lived. Long story short, it wasn’t too long after that that Christopher came up missing and was later found dead. The details of the crime are still coming out at this time.

Here’s the major point. Had Edenfield been allowed to stay where he was, and where he wasn’t doing any harm to anyone, he never would have come into contact with this boy and he would still be alive today. But because of the Georgia State Legislature, headed up by Jerry Keen, in their zeal to look good to Georgia voters and one-up the other states with their “let’s get tough on sex offenders” legislation, this little boy is dead.

In press releases after the initial investigation, his death was called an “unintentional consequence” of the new sex offender laws and we were repeatedly told that to wait and see-the law is still good and will produce good results if given time. Well, it’s been three years now Mr. Keen. Where are the good results you assured us were sure to come? And as for Christopher Barrios’s death, can you explain exactly what is meant by their son dying as a result of an “unintentional consequence”?

The Georgia Assembly shares a degree of guilt for this child’s death, if not the complete guilt. Before this law was passed you heard from treatment professionals, sheriffs, probation officers, etc as to how this would be a mistake and there were sure to be some “unintentional consequences” if it were passed. Other states that had passed similar legislation only to see it backfire on them were pointed out as well. But you ignored all of that and sure enough at least one child is now dead because of it, a sacrifice in the name of political grandstanding and election year BS.

I hope that in the aftermath of all of the reporting that will surely come as result of this boy’s death, when all of the finger pointing at how a registered sex offender has done it again and how we need to get even tougher on them, someone will point out that it was the Georgia legislature that made it possible for Edenfield to meet, rape, and kill an innocent boy, as sure as if they had done it themselves. I’m sure that none of them will take any kind of responsibility for this, since they were only acting in the interest of public safety, right?

I don’t think the Barrios family would consider what happened to their son an act of public safety, and if I were them I’d be wanting some answers.

It’s time to answer up Mr. Keen.

Dodgehilton

October 5th, 2009
11:19 pm

I neglected to mention that in an eerily sick coincidence this rape and murder of a child occurred in the very area Mr. Keen represents and happened to the very people, a child, he purported to draft his legislation to protect.

How ironic.

Sometimes karma not only bites your own a** but those who trust you.

useful

October 5th, 2009
11:33 pm

Thank you Dodgehilton, Keith Richard Radford Jr, Dan Greenfield, and others for your contributions to this blog. It is through people like you that truthful information can be passed along and discussed.

So thanks for speaking out. Thanks to Mr. Barr for blogging about this.

For those who are interested, the Southern Center for Human Rights (the ones that have taken this fight for justice in Ga. to the federal court before Judge Clarence Cooper) posted their briefs on their web site. It is at
“http://www.schr.org/action/resourcesschr_files_five_briefs_asking_court_to_strike_down_georgia_sex_offender_law_as_unco”

Dodgehilton

October 6th, 2009
8:41 am

I have read the briefs submitted to the judge in this matter and if there ever was a strong case presented this is certainly it. I fully expect Judge Cooper to do what is right and make the state ante up for its behavior. It’s just too bad that the criminals in the legislature that drafted and supported this mess, knowing full well at the time that it was not only illegal and unconstitutionally based but that in the long run some “unintended consequences” would result, can’t be held personally liable for damages to the citizens they harmed. But, they should be aware that their constituents aren’t as stupid as they seem to think, and come election time the people of their state might just get some payback in the form of booting them out of office in lieu of actual monetary compensation.

C’est la vie.

common sense

October 6th, 2009
11:32 am

The media has whipped the public into a misleading sex offender frenzy with sensationalized stories about only the most violent predators. No one will seriously consider the facts produced by research, much of which has been done by the Justice Department and State Commissions charged with reporting on sex offender laws. Instead, legislators pass laws for easy votes from the misinformed public, who think that everyone on the registry is a threat to abduct and rape their children. Sheriffs and detectives arrest as many as possible to charge as sex offenders, because it is a feather in their political/career caps. I know a 21-year-old who was in a legal chat room (must be 18-yrs. old or older)and a police undercover detective told him she was a few years younger than him when he asked(would have made her 19). He told her several times that he didn’t want anything to do with anyone underage, and that 15 or 16 was too young (she asked how young was too young). She kept right on being ambiguous, and then, towards the end of the conversation, she said she would be “16 in a month or two.” He discussed consensual sex with her after that, and, even though he never went to the place to meet her, because he was unsure of her age, he is a convicted felon in jail (DA didn’t want to appear soft on sex crimes even though judge recommended misdemeanor). He will be punished for the next 50 or so years of his life by being on the registry. He was a 3.6 college student who has never been in trouble with the law before, scholarship athlete, church volunteer, YMCA youth coach, etc., but his opportunities to move forward are essentially over. What are we doing? Who are we protecting? Why are we ruining the lives of young adults?

DebbieDoRight

October 6th, 2009
12:14 pm

Although I hate to sound like I’m from the middle ages, being an ex-social worker, I’ve seen one too many instances of sexual abuse on a minor; and I say castrate them and you won’t have to worry about then becoming aroused by the sight of children. If castration doesn’t work, (because the stimulant is not watching the child but hurting the child), I say give them one chance to prove that they can walk the line on the side of good; if they fail, bar b que their azzes.

Pretty draconian of me I know, but let’s face it; child abusers are NOT going to change, they are not going to stop unless they are forcefully stopped. Male or Female.

Jefferson

October 6th, 2009
1:14 pm

Don’t let them out of jail if they are dangerous or they abused a minor, otherwise they did the time let them start over. It like life plus ten ?? WTH does that mean?

common sense

October 6th, 2009
1:59 pm

Kudos to Bob Barr for having the courage to speak the truth. Georgia legistlators are snake oil salesmen who pitch fear and myth in exchange for votes. Here is a link to a recent, research-based article by the Colorado Division of Criminal Justice, Department of Public Safety, Sex Offender Management Board, on the use of residency restrictions as a means of sex offender management.

http://dcj.state.co.us/odvsom/sex_offender/SO_Pdfs/Residence%20Restrictions.PP.pdf

Their conclusion?

“In conclusion, the ethical and responsible choices with regard to the management of sex offenders are not always the most popular. This is especially true in the current socio-political environment that
emphasizes accountability, and many times, has a punitive tone with regard to sex offenders. However,the long lasting impact on sex offenders, communities, and victims require thoughtful research based
policies and laws. There is much to learn from the states that have enacted such laws and research conducted thereafter. It appears counterproductive to endorse and/or institute policy and law based on
fear, ignorance, and politics when it causes more problems than it solves. Community safety is paramount and should be the common goal when considering any policy or law regarding sex offenders.
Residence restrictions and zoning laws as a whole are clearly counterproductive to this goal.”

Mark

October 6th, 2009
5:13 pm

I bet Emily thinks 20 million undocumented immigrants can be rounded up and deported too. LMAO!

Deborah Fetkovich

October 6th, 2009
7:04 pm

Last March, the AJC published an article titled: “Georgia law puts non-offenders on sex registry”.
http://www.ajc.com/metro/content/metro/stories//2009/03/15/sex_offender_law_georgia.html

Georgia’s laws on sex offenders are so preposterous and unjust that they’ve made the hitlist of the famous law blog, Overlawyered.com.