Banish them to Franklin

Tilton voters have a chance Saturday to repeal their housing code that bars registered sex offenders from living near places where kids congregate. Citizens should vote yes in their own interest on article 5 to strike down a zoning rule that paradoxically endangers the public. It is also unconstitutional. There is a risk of expensive litigation if the warrant item fails.

Neighboring Franklin imposed the first of these New Hampshire residency restrictions and drove half their registrants out of town in the first year.  Some people must have moved next door to Tilton, which soon passed a copycat housing code in self defense. Dover adopted a similar rule and drove half the registrants elsewhere. Lower courts have since struck down these restrictions in both Dover and Franklin. They violate fundamental property rights in barring a registrant from owning or renting most of the housing in town.

These codes are driven by dangerous misinformation: that sex offenders all have many victims, they feel no remorse, they are terrorists who attack strangers, they are incurable. In fact, prosecutors, cops, and children’s advocates widely oppose these restrictions because they erode public safety. Minnesota considered a statewide residency restriction, but studied the idea first. They looked at the records of 224 sex crimes to see if the offenders ever cased a playground or day care center to find a victim. It never happened. A Tilton-style code would have prevented none of those crimes.

The main threat to kids comes from people they already know and trust: their families, babysitters, clergy, teachers and coaches. Residency restrictions aim to stop the mythical mean stranger who watches the seesaw all day. But teens and other children commit nearly half the sexual abuse against children. These codes typically ban registrants from living in any of the low income housing. The registrant, who probably has no car, must live far from public transportation, employers, pharmacies, and treatment programs.

In short order, the person loses his job, stops taking meds and drops out of counseling. Residency restrictions thus destabilize former offenders by branding them, by making them unemployed and homeless, by costing them their families and support systems. Fewer than 5 percent of registered sex offenders commit a new sex crime in the first three years after prison. The rate plummets after that. They have the lowest repeat-offense rate of all former prisoners. You can learn more at our website,

Published in the Laconia Citizen on Thursday, March 13, 2015 by Chris Dornin