For perfectly understandable reasons people tend to have an emotional reaction when they learn about sex offenders moving into their communities. In Moorhead, Minnesota, citizens have become so upset that they’re pushing for ordinances that would make it impossible for sex offenders to live pretty much anywhere in their city:
MOORHEAD – With residents angered by two high-risk sex offenders recently moving to south Moorhead, the City Council is expected to consider a new city law that could profoundly limit where offenders can live.
A draft of the proposed ordinance would prohibit certain sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school, day care center, park or playground. There would also be a 1,000-foot buffer around public school bus stops, places of worship that hold classes, such as Sunday school, or any other spot where children regularly gather, according to a copy of the draft obtained by The Forum.
“I don’t think we need to roll the red carpet out for someone who’s been such a negative blight on society,” said Dan Haglund, a resident who’s pushing for the new city law.
“I don’t think we owe it to them to make it easy for them to find somewhere to live.”
Mr. Haglund is a real sweetheart. During an interaction with him on Facebook a couple of weeks ago on this topic, his suggestion to me for dealing with the sex offender problem in his community was to ship the sex offenders to the state’s oil fields.
With that sort of thinking driving this issue, how can we not arrive at a level headed solution? (I say sarcastically, if that wasn’t clear).
Just to illustrate how complicated this ordinance would be when it comes to finding housing for released sex offenders, consider that Moorhead has 450 public bus stops, 60 parks, 7 public schools, at least 7 churches and 11 daycares (at least according to my quick count of entries on Google Maps).
Sex offenders covered by this ordinance wouldn’t be able to live within 1,000 – 2,000 feet of any of these facilities.
Which pretty much means they’d be banned from living in Moorhead at all.
You’d think there would be a legal issue with the ordinance. It’s one thing to create zones where sex offenders cannot live. It’s quite another to create a zone which effectively bans sex offenders from an entire city. Whether we want to admit it or not, sex offenders have legal rights too. And as a practical matter, does it make any sense at all to release these people from prison only to deny them any place to live?
Is it better for the sex offenders to be homeless, something corrections officials say makes them more likely to offend?
Which brings us to the absurdity at the crux of this issue. Currently our laws say that a certain amount of time in prison is sufficient for these convicts. But then, when they’re released from prison, it seems our society wants to go on treating them like prisoners.
If these people are such a danger to society, rather than manufacturing ordinances that effectively ban them from our communities, why not keep them in jail?
And if they’re not a danger – if they’ve paid their debt to society and are sufficiently rehabilitated for release – what right do we have regulating where they can live?
Again, this is an issue that doesn’t provoke a lot of thoughtfulness. The knee-jerk, “not in my backyard” activists pay little attention to these practical considerations. And that’s a shame.