With the exception of a murderer, there is probably no lower form of life on this planet than a child molester. It truly makes my stomach turn just to think about these people.
Unfortunately they do exist and finding a way to rationally deal with their presence on this earth has been a vexing problem for lawmakers and law enforcement not just here in New Jersey, but all over the country.
In 1994 New Jersey became an innovator on this subject when it passed “Megan’s Law” requiring community notification of Sex Offenders. After serving their sentences, those offenders must register with the state. Several other states across the country have since adopted similar laws, rejecting arguments that it amounts to double jeopardy.
Well, New Jersey went a step further. 118 Local communities passed ordinances imposing further restrictions on where those registered offenders can live. But in March, the New Jersey Supreme Court threw out those local restrictions.
Now, the legislature is trying again. A bill has cleared the Judiciary Committee which prevents offenders from living within 500 feet of schools and daycare centers.
But opponents say there are problems with this bill as well. For example, finding housing in densely populated NJ is no easy task, which could result in so-called red light districts, or cluster communities of sex offenders.
Meantime, the ACLU argues that these laws simply do not work. That’s because there is absolutely zero evidence to suggest that a sexual predator is more likely to act if he lives with 500 feet of school. Instead of, say, 501 feet. A predator is a predator is a predator, after all. And someone who is going to commit such a heinous crime is likely to try with or without some superficial restriction on where his home can be located.
The other argument is that offenders need to be in a more nurturing environment to be cured, and pushing them to the outskirts of town makes that less likley. Not sure I’m buyin’ that one, but you get the idea.
So, it’s more than likely this will end up in the courts again. But that didn’t stop the bill from clearing committee unanimously. I suppose it would be tough for any lawmaker to seem soft on pedophiles if, for example, he or she opted to vote against this bill. Nothing resonates more strongly with constituents than getting tough on people who might harm their children.
But I think the lesson here is that sometimes suburban paranoia doesn’t equal sound policy.