Jessica's Law and the Homeless Culture
In February of 2005 in the state of Florida, nine year old Jessica Lunsford was
kidnapped, raped and buried alive by a man who had a “long criminal record,
including [previous] sexual offenses and drug addiction” (Greenblatt, 2006,
vol.16, issue 31). Jessica’s death led to the creation of a new law named after
the young victim. “Voters are expected to approve a particularly strict version
of the law in November. Congress also enacted a law this year that will prod
states to track sex offenders more closely” (Greenblatt, 2006, vol. 16, issue
This law was crafted from one extremely rare and high profile case, and
hastily signed into legislation within a year of the incident. According to Ben
Jones, “Fourty-four states have passed some version of Jessica’s Law, a measure
establishing long mandatory sentences and lifelong electronic monitoring for
offenders” (Jones, TODAY USA). The rush to push Jessica Lunsford’s horrific case failed to give people enough time to think ahead about how certain provisions of this law would have consequences that would undermine the very thing they were trying to enhance, public safety.
The Broad Scope of Sex Crimes
The offenses that are considered to be criminal sex offenses are extremely broad, and once convicted, will tarnish the offender’s record for life. Some of those offenses “include but are not limited to non-violent, non-contact offenses such as:
- public urination
- consensual teen sex
Jessica's Law Exposes the Public to an Increase of Sex Offenders
Jessica’s Law, while well intentioned, has become a danger to public safety and even more dangerous for our children.
How can we be sure that our children are safe when there are convicted child predators roaming around with untreated mental issues, untreated drug addictions, hungry, bored, homeless and agitated?
This law gives the public a false sense of security because the public feel better knowing that it "Prohibits Sex Offenders From Residing Near Schools or Parks". What the public fail to realize is that this homeless sex offender status unfortunately places communities at higher risk by increasing public exposure to potentially violent criminal behavior.
Removing the residency restriction piece of Jessica’s Law would enhance public and child safety by decreasing exposure to sex offenders.
2,000 Feet as the Crow Flies
One provision of Jessica’s Law is a residency restriction that prohibits all
registered sex offenders from residing in any home if it is ‘as the crow flies’
measured to be within 2,000 feet of a park or a school, making it nearly
impossible for parolees to find any legal housing. Although this could
initially seem like an effective solution in reducing a sex offender’s access
to groups of children, this piece of Jessica’s Law does absolutely no such
thing to increase the safety of children. Nowhere in Jessica’s Law does it say
that convicted sex offenders are prohibited from hanging out in a park during
the day, it only says that they cannot hang out there for more than 2 hours at
a time. Seems that if a child predator wanted to victimize a child, it would
not take them more than 2 hours to do so. With this law in place, we now we
have to worry about our children running into violent as well as non-violent
sex offenders as soon as they leave the safety of school property as well as the
safety of their own front yard. To have parolees who have been convicted of
various sex related offenses be wandering around homeless, jobless, hungry,
agitated and not rehabilitated in every nook and cranny of our community does
not seem like an effective way to increase or promote public safety. The number
of homeless sex offenders is “outrageously high. It’s one of our biggest gaps
in public safety,” said Tom Tobin, vice chairman of the California Sex Offender
Public Safety Concerns
Jessica’s Law kicks thousands of convicted sex offenders into the streets, alleyways and riverbeds, regardless of whether they are violent or have ever touched a child.
So, how does this outcome increase public safety? It, in fact undermines it. It would make more sense to mandate the offender to reside wherever is necessary in order to make it possible for law enforcement and parole officers to maintain constant awareness of the location of convicted sex offenders around the clock, similar to a House Arrest situation.
Society would be safer from potential child predators to keep sex offenders off of the streets and according to Sgt. Peter Hahn with the Los Angeles County sheriff’s special victim’s unit, “Residency restrictions have indeed backfired … Basically, it’s hard to keep track (of the homeless), so they could be out doing things they’re not supposed to” (Kyle, 2014, p. 1, par. 18-19).
Uhhmm ... DUUUHH!
A Set Up For Failure
Jessica’s Law undermines offender rehabilitation efforts. We would be more likely to
increase public safety if sex offenders were offered drug addiction and alcoholism treatment and other related services. Convicted sex offenders have slim to none chances of rehabilitating or becoming mentally healthy because they are not allowed to access the resources they’d need to become well or stable.
Studies have shown that the majority of sex offenders have some degree of an issue with drug abuse and or alcoholism. Even though most sex offenders have addiction and alcoholism, residential drug treatment programs will not allow convicted sex offenders to step foot on their properties and most homeless shelters do not allow sex offenders to stay there either. Sex offenders are under strict terms with parole that prohibit them from leaving the county where they committed their crime because they have to check in with their parole officer from time to time.
GPS Ankle Monitor
Who Profits from the Increase of Sex Offenders ...
Among the entities that abuse Jessica’s Law, one of them happens to be the GPS corporations who have figured out ways to make profit off of the recidivism of parolees in the criminal justice system by supporting the enforcement of Jessica’s Law onto offenders who have not harmed children. Originally Jessica’s Law required that all convicted ‘child predators’ wear GPS ankle monitor devices for the rest of their lives, but the umbrella of what a sex-offender is has broadened significantly to encompass people who have committed non-violent offenses and offenses that do not include minors or children. “As of August 29  there were 9,912 sex offenders on parole in the state, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Of those, 6,968 were in communities subject to Jessica’s Law and 2,077 were considered high risk” (Broder, 2012, para. 5). According to Pro Tech Monitoring, a Florida based provider of tracking systems for criminals, “With passage of the new legislation, things have gotten busy for the company, to say the least” (Brown, 2005). Could this trend have anything to do with the contracts between the GPS companies and the parole system, who all profit off of the recidivism of sex offenders through the prison system? “There are an estimated 736,000 registered sex offenders out there; satellite tracking equipment costs anywhere from $15 -$20 per person per day, which is an expense paid for by the parolees” (Sheppard, 2011, vol. 36, no. 6:12). This fine print fact was not something that the voters were made aware of when they urgently voted for Prop 83.
Sometimes when society wishes to protect one segment of people, laws are established that violate the constitutional rights of the others.
Thousands of non-violent offenders are forced into homelessness and hopelessness every year because their families live too close to a park or a school. Not only is this an extremely unfortunate situation for the non-violent, non-child predators, but it is unfortunate for the entire community to have an increase in homeless people, never knowing if ‘that homeless guy’ is a potential threat to their child as they pass by on public sidewalks, and ironically even while strolling past us through the park.
Regardless of the wide variety of said sex-crimes, each sex offender is treated the same as a forceful child predator. Contrary to popular belief, convicted sex offenders aren’t going to just disappear or go away because of Jessica’s Law. In fact, with Jessica’s Law in place, it is going to become harder and harder to ignore the plethora of sex offenders as they pile up on the sidelines of our communities with nothing but the deterioration of their untreated ill minds to rely upon for help.
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