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.

By Andrew Cohen |  July 11, 2006; 8:30 AM ET
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My comment is that as a mother of a girl I am ok to take out of our neighborhoods the sick guys that touch little girls or boys and attempt their lives. But it is not ok to do it to people that had sex or sexual acts when they were teenagers, that is not fear. We cannot categorize them together. We should be equal, why accused a guy that was 18 and his girlfriend 16 as a sex offender? That is so ridiculous, but hey this is America HOME OF THE FREE AND THE STUPIDITY

Posted by: Karen | July 11, 2006 09:51 AM

here is a statement from the Jacob Wetterling foundation that adresses their thoughts on so's and residence restrictions. the truth of the matter is that so's are not always lurking around the corner. A study done by the United States Dept of Justice in 1994 (note this was before most states even had a megan's law) states that out of 9691 offenders released in 1994 that within 3 years only 513 were rearrested for a new sex offense.

Common Sense Advocated
by Victim's Mother

In 1989, 11 year old Jacob Wetterling was kidnapped and never seen again. His mother, Patty Wetterlilng, was instrumental in the 1994 passage of the federal Jacob Wetterling Act which required states to establish sex offender registries. She recently said: "The challenge is, you can't treat all sex offenders the same; they're not." (St. Paul Pioneer Press, July 27, 2005)

The Jacob Wetterling Foundation advises: "Community Notification is not about chasing sex offenders out of our neighborhoods. We all face the challenge of building new communities, which recognize that sex offenders live and work among us. Experts state that sex offenders are less likely to re-offend if they live and work in an environment free of harassment... If we are going to make our communities safer, we need to use this law to our benefit. We need offenders to succeed, because if they don't, that means there will be another victim.

Posted by: jeff | July 11, 2006 12:41 PM

I feel that this law is really stupid. What about those who were falsely accused? What about those who supposedly molested girls in high school some 20 yrs ago, because of getting pregnant and not wanting to tell her parents claim that the guy raped her? What happens now that he is grown, married with children of his own. What happens to those who had purchased their houses years ago and now a bus stop is located in the area now. Are they to sell their homes and move to God knows where? Do you know how may homeless people there will be? What about those in the Churhes who have molested the children? Instead of kicking them to the curb they get sent to another parish to molest the children at that one!!! This law is really stupid and was not well thought out. No one cares of about the effect this will have on families. Round up those who are Level 2 and above who keep molesting children out of the area instead of taking their money as payoffs. Kill the Law.

Posted by: Rosaline Gibbons | July 11, 2006 12:52 PM

Of the 2,533 registered offenders in the ten metro area counties around Atlanta, according to the Untied States Justice Department statistics, an average of 10% are high risk or predators, which leave us 2,280, which are low or medium risk. Using, DOJ statistics of 40% offenders on the registry are a juvenile, equals 912 juvenile offenders will not be allowed to live at home with their parents or siblings. We will get back to them in a moment. That leaves us with 1,368 adult offenders. Assuming half of them are married with a family, we now have 684 low or medium risk offenders that will have to uproot their family members. Assuming further, 2.3 children per family, 1,573 children will be affected. Now add in the spouse, say half of the households have one, that gives us another 342, and we are now talking around 2,599 men, women, and children in the family segment. Now we go back to the 912 juvenile offenders. Add in 2.3 siblings per offender, equals 2,098 more children and 1.5 parents per offender and you get 1,368 more parents, grandparents or guardians. Add in the 684 single offenders and we are now talking about 7,661 individuals this law will affect, 5,381 are innocent family members.

This is the largest FORCED RELOCATION of American citizens since the Japanese-Americans internment during World War II. Does no one care about these thousands of innocent people? Are we on a slippery slope towards ideas and actions many of our parent's fought against in European or Pacific battlefields?

What is the difference between Jerry Burke Inman, John Evander Couey or Joseph Edward Duncan III and over 90 percent of the folks on a Sex Offender Registry? To answer this question, we need to look at the intent of Megan's and Jacob's Laws. They mandated a SOR (sex offender registry) and community notification for states, designed to keep track of the high risk or most violent and predatory offenders. The men mentioned above are high-risk or predators. Additionally, they were intentionally absconding from the system at the time of their most recent crimes. (In Mr. Inman's case, he is registered in two states, his Florida registration showed he was in Tennessee, and his North Carolina registration showed he was in Michigan.) The conditions of their bail, probation, or parole did not matter to them. Noteworthy is the fact that according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, predators represent around three percent of all sex offenders and child killers are less than one percent of all offenders.

A report to the Unites States Senate Judiciary Committee by SOhopeful International stated, "It is because of these misunderstandings about the real nature of sex crimes, victims of sex crimes and sex offenders that Federal and some State governments are spending large sums for ineffective policies that do not increase public safety." The public needs to be more concerned about high-risk sex offenders and absconders, not the low risk offenders who are working hard to comply with their probation and therapy guidelines or who have paid their debt to society and are on the Sex Offender Registry by law. Because of law enforcement needing to spending precious resources tracking low risk offenders, two girls, and a young woman are now dead. Additionally, hysteria created by media misinformation and hyperbole, has a devastating and demoralizing effect on the families of low-risk offenders, including the unintended practice of revealing the identity of victims of intra-familial abuse, traumatizing children a second time.

We must have more faith in ourselves than in government to solve the sex abuse problem. Citizens, communities, journalist, media personalities, and legislators should demand a National Sex Offender Public Policy Forum to address these issues. This would help state and local governments formulate workable, cost effective laws that protect the rights of all citizens. Forums should include mental health professionals, jurist, law enforcement and corrections personnel, victims and their families, offenders and their families. The offender's families are secondary casualties of ill-conceived laws. In lieu of fostering a fearful witch-hunt mentality for advertising dollars and higher ratings, the media needs to step up to this societal challenge. They should strive to dispel the myths and create the environment for policy and subsequent legislation to succeed, creating a safe society for all children.

Posted by: Kyle Sandusky | July 11, 2006 12:54 PM

regardless of how haness a crime was a person deserves the right to live there lives in peace after they payed there price to society.. I'm so sick of hearing how sex offenders deserve what they get when other offenders slip by with even more haness crimes then touching a child. I would say the very few whom continue to do there crimes should be watched that includes all crimes not just sex offences. Hysteria and media reporting false statments created such a disaster in our criminal laws unseen since the civil rights movement. I for one can not condem a person for life if that person is truly reformed and trying to be a productive member of society. STOP persacuting people you have no idear of whom they are; most on the registry are fathers and husbans whom made a mistake many years ago and now there families are suffering for this hate mantality. Soon with how these laws are structured everyone will be a sex offender..

Posted by: Rob | July 11, 2006 01:31 PM

To start I am not a sex offender or know anyone who is. My view is this law is wrong. If all sex offenders deserve the same punishment. Then we should have one driving law. The one law fits all penalty would be the same for a speeding ticket, run a stop sign, at fault in an accident, running a red light, DUI or any other driving offense, see where this is going.
Yes there should be tough sex laws for child predators but in different degrees just like there is for Murder , Felony, Trespassing and Burglary and every other crime. You can not lump them into one that fits all.
It would be nice to have about 6 basic laws on the books, then interpretation would be simple and easy. we could get rid of 99.95% of the attorneys in USA they got us in our mess of ridiculous laws in the beginning.

Posted by: Alex Meadows | July 11, 2006 01:41 PM

First we need to thank Judge Cooper for the Temporary Restraining Order towards the bus stops.

Unfortunately, this is not the end of the problem, only part of the problem. Without a Temporary Restraining Order for all other areas listed in this destructive law, you still have many hundreds or thousands being forced out of their homes or face 10 years or more in prison. This creates undo hardship toward sex offenders and their families. They receive a formal letter from the local sheriff that they must move immediately or face arrest for failure to comply with HB 1059. This is an injustice worse than any I have seen in my lifetime.

Each family has spent unknown amounts of time searching for a place to live that is not in a forbidden zone or near a bus stop. Problem lies that this is being done in ALL counties in GA. So where do all these families go? That is it in a nutshell. With X number still on probation or parole, they just can't up and leave in hopes of finding a home in another state. Why? When they are forced to leave the home they have lived (Some own the home, some having lived in same place for years), it would come to reason they are forced to give up the job they had due to it being uneconomical to drive back and forth or the place they worked is in a forbidden zone.

Everyone fears sex offenders. You read about them daily in your local paper, hear it on the 10:00 news, been told by those elected officials that they are truly monsters, they can never change, there is no treatment for them, best to lock them up and throw away the keys. This fear is unjustified. Department of Justice has stated that 1.) 90 - 95% of sex abuse cases come from within the family or circle of known people to the victim, that there is a 5.3% rearrest rate for sex offender, with a 3.5% reconviction for another sex offense, there is a 1% chance that your child would be "stolen" or worse, by a true predator, like Couey. (Sex offender and Sex Predator are not the same) They stand a better chance of abuse or death by a family member, hit by a car, a drunken driver, shot by a drug user or dealer, shot in a gang war in a drive by shooting, be in a plane crash, than by a Reformed Sex Offender.

Take away the support system that has been built up around a Reformed Sex Offender, and you force the despair to rise up, the fear of failure to show its ugly head, the need to do what they feel they must do to survive, to go underground or just disappear. No one wishes that, most especially those offenders who wish nothing more than to be productive, law abiding members of society. This law takes away all hopes of success, but leaves nothing but forced failure and a return to prison. 

The local sheriff is overworked and understaffed as it is before the implementation of HB1059. With this new law, they are forced to decide what service they must do away with so they can insure sex offenders are in compliance with the law. They would need to measure distances, make arrangements with the school systems and Churches, public and private, to locate all bus stops. This in itself does not make the public safer. Is this what the Legislature intended when they passed this law? While the court will make a decision on bus stops, it is the remainder of the law, HB1059 that today is causing undo hardship, both for the sex offender and their families as well as law enforcement. 

Posted by: Michael Price | July 11, 2006 02:58 PM

All I can say is Kudos to U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper. It is about time the judges started to see the unconstitutionality of these banishment requirements/laws.

There is proof they don't work. Just the other day a 4 year old was taken out of her Aunts hand. The offender ran. A good samaritan stopped him and got the child and the police got the offender. Now, why did Megans law and the residency restrictions not work? He came from another town!!!

Executive Director
Roar for Freedom

Posted by: Betty Price | July 11, 2006 04:18 PM

There is a class of people in America today, numbering two million or more, who have been utterly scapegoated, ostracized, demonized and shunned. There is no longer any defense available for these people. Almost no-one on the left or the right, civil libertarians or ordinary citizens, will defend their rights. They are regularly vilified with the most vicious and hate-filled language--language previously reserved for classes now protected: Jews, Blacks, homosexuals. They are fair game as targets of abuse and vandalism. They are subject to utter public scorn. About 600,000 of them have been rounded up and forced to register--many soon to be monitored for life with electronic bracelets and global positioning devices. Nearly 4000 have been locked up for life, not on criminal charges, but by civil commitment, and those numbers are growing by the day. The remainder are mostly in hiding, desperately afraid of sudden exposure and witch hunts by neighbors, fellow-workers and friends, whom they fear will suddenly see them as monsters beyond redemption. They are a class defined not by specific crimes (though they are accused of many offenses) but by their very being, their desires, their constitution, as allegedly broken human beings. Presidents and Governors call them "despicable," "disgusting," "incapable of rehabilitation or reform," "beyond help." They are loudly reviled as examples to be shunned by fundamentalist and bigoted preachers, but also by left-wing media, progressive community leaders and feminists.
Who are these scum? Arab terrorists? Muslim fanatics? No--those evil-doers appear almost benign when compared to this heinous mob. These are the most awful people in the world: SEX OFFENDERS! Worse, many are PEDOPHILES! In fact, these two terms become mingled. Jeb Bush recently alluded to all the sex offenders in Florida as child molesters, though fewer than 1/3 of those incarcerated in that state for "sex crimes" involved people under 18. Bush went on, "These are a group of people who are the sickest of the sick. They are truly perverts and it's not curable. Instead of civil detention, we ought to make sure...these pedophiles...are locked up forever."
Of course among these sex offenders are indeed some criminals who have caused extreme harm: violent rapists of adult women as well as children. A few of them have kidnapped, tortured or murdered their victims. Dr. Fred Berlin of the Johns Hopkins University Sex Disorders Clinic in Baltimore estimates that such crimes account for less than 1/10th of 1% of all sex offenses in America. His studies also show that fewer than 10% of child sex offenders re-offend--though recidivism is usually given as a reason for draconian measures against them. As child abuse experts point out, about 50 children are reported kidnapped and raped or murdered by strangers annually, compared to more than 3,000 children murdered by parents and other family members in non-sexual cases. Most sex offenders, says one therapist who works with sex offenders in a state prison system, are "Gentle grandfathers who made one mistake in judgment years ago and fondled their grandchild. Or lonely, geeky gay men--teenagers some of them--who sought mutual sexual release with adolescent boys. Or young female teachers who succumbed to the wiles of handsome adolescent boys or girls. Or young men who got drunk and pushed their girlfriends over a line that is now called date rape." Yet the media, police, prosecutors and politicians continue to insist that children are in dire need of protection from serial rapists and murderers.

Posted by: cooper | July 11, 2006 05:20 PM

This is the largest FORCED RELOCATION of American citizens since the Japanese-Americans internment during World War II. Does no one care about these thousands of innocent people? Are we on a slippery slope towards ideas and actions many of our parent's fought against in European or Pacific battlefields?

Posted by: Dave | July 11, 2006 08:09 PM

My husband is a registered sex offender in the state of Georgia. We have been living on pins and needles for months since we learned that this law was set to go into effect. We are on the verge of seeing our lives unravel any day now.

If this law remains intact we will have to abandon our home, and move out of state. We will both have to quit our jobs as well.

The stress of waiting on the outcome of these hearings have made my health worse. My work performance is suffering because I stay up at night crying because there's a real chance that I will lose my house, and with no job and no place to live in a new state my prospects will be severely limited.

Georgia lawmakers say that this new law is an 'inconvenience'. I have to disagree. Over 10,000 families being forced to uproot and change their lives is much more than an 'inconvenience', it's very cruel.

The people you see on the sex offender registry are for the most part trying to comply with the laws. The people that lawmakers should really be concerning themselves with are the ones who are not complying with the law by absconding, or the offenders that haven't been caught yet. Our tax dollars could be spent on community outreach, such as teaching more children when being touched is bad or allowing more police officers to spend time with children and in places where children congregate instead of chasing people from their homes.

Posted by: Mellissa | July 11, 2006 11:53 PM

If parents would keep better track of their children many cases of sexual molestation would never happen. Parents let their children run all over the place thinking they're safe. Parents don't know the parents of their children's friends, they don't know their neighbors, teachers, anyone. In most households, both parents work, there's no time to get to know anyone. But parents have a responsibility to protect their children. That comes BEFORE work, before your volunteering, before anything. Your children are your PRIMARY focus, and if more parents paid more attention, asked more questions and got more involved, more children would be safe.

I'm sorry but as much as I detest child molesters, you can't force them to uproot themselves and their families. In America, once you do the time and are released back into society, you are free to live your life so long as you do not break the law again. If we begin forcing convicted sex offenders to relocate, which group is next?

Posted by: Jessica | July 12, 2006 10:54 AM

I have read all these remarks about "Sex Offenders" and not one person has written in favor of this law. I am a Pastor. I deal with these people. My prespective is that all people need "HOPE". This law removes any hope of getting their lives back in order. One young man who had consensual sex with a young lady 4 months from being 16 said he might as well committ suicide as to have to deal the State of Ga. the rest of his life and this law. The 1,000 feet rule is flawed but I take issue with someone like this young man having to register the rest of his life as a sex offender. Can we not get beyond our mistakes. It is our fears pushing us to make unwise laws like this one. One man in my neighborhood published from the web a picture of a sex offender living in our neighborhood. He said, "If I knew a sex offender lived here I would not have bought a home here". I want to invite this man to leave. In our county a local "community new paper" publishes the pictures of all the "sex offenders". What biggotary! Do they publish any other law breakers pictures. Furthermore, all they publish is their picture and name. That leaves everyone to speculate that every person stole a child from a bus stop and molested them. That certainly is not the truth. I hope Judge Cooper will have the resolve to strike down the entire law to be re-written. I believe our leaders can do much better than they have done. One leader apologized to me for voting for this law. I hope the remainder will see the mistake they have made.

Posted by: Gary | July 12, 2006 06:16 PM

as a sex offender that was convicted at 18.
i am sorry but this will never work.
whilst i was in jail out of 1200 10 to 18 year olds at least 100 were deemed sex offenders these kids ranged from 12 +
since being out of prison i have been harrassed 2 times and forced to leave my home where i had progressed had a job and was in a stable relationship.
It almost came to the point of running due to harrassment.
the area i live in now i have been here for 4 years i have had no problems have a job my relationship is better my ties with law enforcement is to the effect that they come and see how i am every 6 month i can and would tell them if i ever thought that i was slipping back to how i use to be.
if this law is allowed then please do expect alot of lost offenders. that is how this will all end out, then what all these nice laws will be a total waste of time as no one will know where they are and that is a sad state of affairs.
i sorry but i do agree that sex offenders should be monitored just to stop a child being hurt but not this way this way you will drive them underground and that will end up bad
when are people going to reliase that the more you try to control someone the worse they will become
and to put this so blunt if L.E.As try to help and work with sex offenders the better the whole thing will end up and the less chance of re-offending
but at the moment all i see is threat upon threat and that will lead to homlessness and no control that will = more will re offend just to get a place to live even if it is jail
i think people should think very cafefully about what is going on.
"better a devil you know than one you dont"

Posted by: anon | July 13, 2006 06:24 PM

This saddens and frightens me to no end.

In California, we will be dealing with this same issue and I still can't believe that I will be forced to leave my home for some concentual contact I had over 20 years that I wasn't even looking for. I accept my responsibility and paid my debt, but right now, I feel as if no matter what, it will never be enough.

I'm loosing loosing all hope. But with this latest call from this brave judge, I see a glimmer.

Since then I have been more of a pedaphobic, I'm terrified to be around children. Not because I will reoffend, that never even crosses my mind because I am not a pedaphile, but because of this growing hysteria that the slightest suspect will put me and thousands others in prison for something many of us have done many years ago.

I'm waiting for our country to start reinstating concentration camps next.

It's so sad what is happening to this country. It is not the same America I was brought up in.

May God help us all.

Posted by: Hal | July 28, 2006 06:27 PM


Posted by: andrew james | August 3, 2006 06:54 AM

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