You may have noticed that f/k/a has been taking a breather this year from reporting on (and opposing) sex offender residency laws — after covering the topic in twenty posts from June through December 2007. I hope we didn’t lull you into thinking that “panderpols” and fear-mongers haven’t been cooking up more bone-headed restrictions on where sex offenders can live, work and loiter. Neither common sense nor correct facts have stemmed the tide — and lawsuits have also proven to be an ineffective deterrence.
While we slacked off, Rev. Dave Hess, of The Parson. net (where you will find excellent analysis and all the facts about sex offender laws), has been vigilantly monitoring proposals and votes on new sex offender restrictions across New York State. Dave wrote to a number of Capital-Region opponents of sex offender residency bans this week, saying:
“Though the filing of the lawsuits have given some communities pause, others continue to adopt sex offender residency laws and loitering laws”
As examples, Rev. Hess points to:
- An article from the Tonawanda News, dated June 4, 2008, which reports that the Niagara County legislature: “Established the Niagara County Pedophile-Free Child Safety Zone Act, which bars registered sex offenders from lingering within 1,000 feet of a school, park, child care facility or other public and private location frequented by children.” (First offenders can be charged with a Class B misdemeanor, and repeat violators with a Class A misdemeanor.) An earlier article in the Buffalo News offered more details on the bill, which had been cut back to eliminate Level One offenders, due to concerns over lawsuits elsewhere. Legislator Paul B. Wojtaszek explained, “I want to be as reasonable as we can. This isn’t a feel-good law. We’re serious about protecting our children.” Nonetheless, Legislature Chairman William L. Ross is quoted saying: “Anything we can do to reinforce the public’s feeling of safety and security for their children is well worth pursuing.” (emphasis added)
– But see Sex Offenders: A Flawed Law (Gatehouse News)
- And, news that the City of Middleton, New York, on the other side of the State in the Hudson Valley, now has a law that “bars sex offenders from moving into any home, getting a job or loitering within 750 feet of a child safety zone.” “City passes law to limit where sex offenders can go” (Times-Herald Record, June 10, 2008) The Safety Zones include schools, registered day care centers or preschools, parks or other places where kids congregate. Happily, the reasonable folks on the Middleton Common Council didn’t bar sex offenders from passing through the zones for legitimate work, school or medical reasons. I have no idea why Middleton decided to draw a 750-foot radius for its safety zones rather than the more prevalent 1000 feet. It does not, in my opinion, make the law 25% less silly.
Of course, experts tell us that sex offenders are less likely to re-offend when they have stable relationships and social connections in a community and steady jobs. Nevertheless, our elected leaders keep passing ineffective and counter-productive laws that make it even more difficult for SOs to find home homes and jobs.
Dave Hess also spotlighted the tale of Level 3 Sex Offender Keith Shortsleeves, who is caught in a hellish limbo created by the intersection of SO residency restrictions in Hudson Falls and Washington County, NY, and “a little-known state law that requires hospital patients to show they have somewhere to go that meets their care needs before they can be discharged.” “Hospitals forced into holding pattern” (Glens Falls Post-Star, June 15, 2008) As the Post-Star explains:
“He is a Level 3 sex offender who can’t go back to his former apartment in Fort Edward because of handicapped accessibility issues, but can’t find an accessible apartment anywhere else because of laws that dictate where sex offenders can live.
“So since February, Shortsleeves has stayed in a variety of hospital rooms, most recently in a third-floor corner room overlooking the front parking lot, waiting for a solution to his housing woes.
Shortsleeves has relatives who have offered to give him a home, but they all live within the restricted zone. A lot of people have worked to find him a place to go, and the grateful-but-frustrated Shortsleeves has even put an ad in the newspaper. “I know they want to get rid of me because there are other people who need the room,” he said. “They’ve been really good to me and they’re trying to help me, but they just can’t find nothing.”
By the way, through Medicaid and Medicare, taxpayers have been footing the bill for Shortsleeves’ extended stay, with the hospital aborbing any uncompensated costs once coverage has ended.
Does Keith Shortsleeves pose a significant risk to reoffend? According to the article, “He weighs more than 300 pounds and is wheelchair-bound, with part of his left leg amputated, and part of his right foot amputated as well. He said he has asthma and heart problems.”
Shortsleeves says, “I’m not going to hurt anybody. I’m in a wheelchair for gosh sakes,” and I believe him.
Is there no one among the elected and appointed leaders of Washington County who can come up with a creative solution? I hope the Post-Star article has spurred them into action. Shortsleeves’ sex offender status should not deprive him of a little compassion and the application of political courage and common sense.
Prof. Yabut just asked I we could have a little change of pace on this stormy Sunday night. Not having any new haiku to offer right now, I just dug up a posting from two years ago, when we put the spotlight on twelve poems contributed to the June 2006 edition (Vol. VIII: 2) of The Heron’s Nest by some of our Honored Guest Poets. Go here for the full dozen. Here’s a sample:
New Year’s Day
the center of the chocolate
not what I expected
vast blue sky
………………….. by Carolyn Hall, The Heron’s Nest (VIII: 2, 2006)
clear night —
on the windowpane
choosing the sunniest spot
to fill my tank
………… by Hilary Tann, The Heron’s Nest (VIII: 2, 2006)
we bury Grandmother
without her wig
…………. by Andrew Riutta, The Heron’s Nest (VIII: 2, 2006)
old water fountain
hitting me in the eye
his first haircut
tunnel of love
she props the stuffed frog
cool forest lake
as I slip off my shorts the snort
of a bull moose
—— George Swede
in the shower
an economy-size bar of soap
lands on my toe