Another Look at the Bus Stop Law
A federal judge in Georgia today will hear from lawyers who are fighting over a new law that would prevent registered sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of any and every bus stop in the state. State officials say the law is necessary to protect children. Civil rights attorneys say that since there are so many bus stops in the state-- 270,000, by one estimate-- that the new law drastically limits the areas where the approximately 11,000 registered offenders may live.
U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper already has suspended the bus stop provision which is part of a broader effort by Georgia officials to place restrictions upon sex offenders. The point of the hearing will be to determine whether that suspension will continue. It's a terribly complex issue. The law would force registered offenders to move from their homes (if they fall within the space limitation) or else face prison. But law enforcement officials worry that they would lose track of some of the men who are forced to leave their homes. According to one report, all 490 registered sex offenders in DeKalb County, Georgia would have to move if the provision took effect.
This is one of those cases that is likely to reverberate around the country no matter what the courts ultimately decide. If Judge Cooper, and his appellate colleagues, permanently strike down the provision it will end the efforts of legislators to try to remove sex offenders from, well, every neighborhood in every state-- it will set some sort of outer limit on what politicians and police can do to these men once they re-enter society. But if the courts ultimately uphold the provision, state legislators everywhere will rush to enact similar legislation. My guess is that the provision won't stand-- that the courts will declare the effort unconstitutional. Sex offenders who have served their prison time have to be able to live somewhere.
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