In Florida, registered sex offenders can not live within 1,000 feet of a school, church, day care center, or a park. Florida municipalities set up even more restrictions. See Wernick, In Accordance with a Public Outcry: Zoning Out Sex Offenders Through Residence Restrictions in Florida, 58 Fla. L. Rev. 1147, 1163-1164 (2006). In Miami, despite its density, prohibits sex offenders from living within 2,500 feet of such places. As a result, in some places like Miami, they set up a shanty town under a bridge because they could not find anywhere else in Miami where it was legal for them to live. (source)
Lake County, Florida wants to go even further — prohibiting sex offenders from living within 500 feet of each other. (source)
The county commission chairwoman, Leslie Campione was proud of the effort.
“We’re on the cutting edge to protect our children and to protect our communities,” Campione said. “Even if we have challenges, we’re on good ground here.”
Who will stand up for the sex offenders? Not many.
What people generally miss in this kind of story is that when the government targets one group, even an “evil” group like sex offenders, it starts the ball rolling toward everyone’s rights.
If the government can impose absurd conditions like this on someone who is a “sex offender” then why not someone else? Are “sex crimes” something special? Of course they are. The sex offender boogeyman preys on our deepest fears. What parent is willing to risk their kid being snatched up from the playground? It is pretty easy to whip up a room full of parents into a crazy caucasian frappe when you start talking about “the children.” But do these laws really help? If a guy has a van, some candy, and the desire, does it matter if he lives across the street from the school or 100 miles away?
Worse yet, if you look at the list of “sex offenses,” they are not limited to crimes that would make me feel uncomfortable living next to someone. In Florida, you can be convicted of obscenity and wind up on a register. I know people who have been charged with, and who even went to jail for violating the obscenity laws. I’d feel comfortable being their next door neighbor. I’d feel comfortable letting them babysit my kids. I have never even heard of someone charged with violating an obscenity law who I wouldn’t break bread with. Yet, a conviction for that “crime” — the crime of having a movie that the government doesn’t like — is enough to set you on the spiral to homelessness.
18 year old who had sex with a 15 year old girlfriend? Sex offender. Underage kid who took a nude photo of herself? Sex offender. Pissing in an alley because you couldn’t find a bathroom? Indecent exposure — sex offender. I’d be fine if my kids were being babysat by someone who got convicted of those crimes. But, Flori-duh decides that it wants to use the politically charged “sex offender” status to see how far it can push its authority. After all, who wants to stick up for rapists and child molesters?
When you say “not me” — you need to realize that when you stand up for these “untouchables” you don’t need to do so out of compassion for them (although that is your right). You need to stand up for them because you are really standing up for yourself.