Let them live with the coyotes

Your state senator, Sharon Carson, recently voted against a superb crime bill, HB 1237, which I wrote as founder of Citizens for Criminal Justice Reform, a nonprofit. The legislation blocked towns from imposing unconstitutional residency restrictions against people on the sex offender shaming roster.

Carson chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee and opposed the bill as a matter of local control. She said Holderness, Sanbornton, Tilton, Northfield and Boscawen still enforce these residency codes.

“We should allow them to do that,” Carson said in committee. “Let it happen at the local level.”

Carson drafted the Senate blurb against the bill: “While two courts have struck down local ordinances in two communities, the current process is working and our communities should be able to deal with this at the local level.”

Courts voided the zoning codes in Franklin and Dover as a breach of fundamental property rights. Both towns reduced the number of registrants by half in the first year, a good outcome you think a whole class of humanity is undeserving of constitutional protection.

Nobody knows where those people went. Maybe they left town, or stayed in their homes and stopped registering, or became homeless, or got evicted from houses they already owned.

These codes are driven by widely held myths: that sex offenders all have many victims, that they feel no remorse, that they are terrorists who prey on strangers, that sex offender treatment programs are ineffective. The voters of Londonderry need to know the hard truth most lawmakers already know. Prosecutors, cops, children’s advocates and and victim advocates widely oppose these residency restrictions because they endanger the public.

Sadly, the main threat to kids is from their own families, babysitters, scout leaders, Sunday school teachers, and Little League coaches. Residency restrictions aim to stop the mean stranger watching the playground.  But other children commit nearly half the sexual abuse against children.

Why are these feel-good codes dangerous, you ask? They typically ban registrants from living 2,000 feet from a YMCA, school, daycare center, park or library. That territory includes just about all the low income housing. The registrant, who probably has no car, must live far from public transportation, employers, pharmacies, clinics, and treatment programs.

In short order, the person is likely to lose their job, stop taking meds, and quit going to counseling. Residency restrictions thus destabilize registrants by branding them, by making them unemployed and homeless, by costing them their families and support systems.

Sex offenders actually have the lowest recidivism rate of any ex-offenders, and skilled cognitive/behavioral therapy lowers it even more. The public registry endangers the public too, by the way. My nonprofit group is raising money for a class action suit against it. You can learn more at www.ccjrnh.org.

Chris Dornin is a former writer for the Derry News and the Londonderry Times.