Banishment By a Thousand Laws: Residency Restrictions on Sex Offenders
60 Pages Posted: 29 Jan 2007 Last revised: 18 Jan 2008
Across America, states, localities, and private communities are debating and implementing laws to limit the places of residence of convicted sex offenders. Twenty states and hundreds, if not thousands, of local communities have adopted statutes which severely limit the places where a sex offender may legally live. In this article, I trace these new laws to historical practices of banishment in Western societies. I argue that the establishment of exclusion zones by states and localities is a form of banishment that I have termed "internal exile." Establishing the connection to banishment punishments helps to explain the unique legal, policy, and ethical problems these laws create for America. Ultimately, residency restrictions could fundamentally alter basic principles of the American criminal justice system. While those supporting these laws have the interests of children at heart, the policies they are promoting will be worse for children and society.
Keywords: Sex Offenders, Sex Crimes, Child Molestation, Rape, Residency Restrictions, Banishment, Exclusion Zones
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