Just coincidentally, the day before news broke last week of the arrest of John Mark Karr in the Jonbenet Ramsey case, I was interviewed by Denver Post columnist David Harsanyi on sex offender banishment laws. We were discussing the wisdom and legality of Greenwood Village's new ordinance banning registered sex offenders from living just about anywhere in the city. His column, Sex-crime Solutions Elude Cities, appears in today's paper. While Harsanyi is no liberal and does not share my concern about how released sex offenders are expected to support themselves if they aren't allowed to live anywhere but Timbuktu, he and I agree on a few points:
There are reasons to believe banishment laws are feel-good exercises with little positive outcome.
...The present system of registering offenders does not distinguish between the dangerous and the formerly dangerous - bundling statutory rape cases with violent pedophiles. Without excusing anyone's criminal behavior, it's obvious such a system is unreliable and unfair.
I give Mr. Harsanyi a lot of credit for honestly trying to work through his feelings on this subject. It's a tough one. As he says, no parent, including him, wants their child around a sex offender. The fact that he even asks this question gives me hope:
If a criminal has paid his debt to society, what right do we have to tell him where to live? Has this sort of banishment law met the constitutional test? "