In the Zone: Sex Offenders and the Ten-Percent Solutions
57 Pages Posted: 26 Feb 2009 Last revised: 8 Feb 2013
Date Written: February 26, 2009
At first glance, sex-offender residency restrictions appear plausible because they ostensibly place a convicted sex offender's residence out of reach of children. However, these regimes address less than ten percent of the very real problem of child sex abuse, as family members and acquaintances of children commit more than ninety percent of this abuse. On the other hand, many schemes effectively banish almost 100% of convicted sex offenders to society's literal and social margins, condemning many low-risk offenders to a lifetime of isolation while breeding optimal conditions for high-risk offenders to reoffend. The practical implications of this policy choice, therefore, are dangerous and real, lulling the public into a false sense of security.
This Article challenges prevailing judicial orthodoxy that many sex-offender residency restrictions are constitutional under the Ex Post Facto Clause. The Article applies the analytical framework of Smith v. Doe, the U.S. Supreme Court's most recent case involving sex-offender legislation. It also forges a new way of thinking about these regimes as land-use policies that "negatively" zone individuals out of the urban cores. The Article proposes an innovative "positive" zoning scheme, the Sex-Offender Containment Zone, which zones high-risk convicted sex offenders back into the city in a manner that is effective, humane, and constitutional.
Keywords: public residency restrictions, sex offenders
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