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Saturday, March 7, 2015

California: Registered Sex Offenders to March on Carson City Hall to Fight Restrictions

 
It’s great to see that RSO’s and their family members in California are willing to step out of the shadows to fight against myth-based, hate driven and prejudicial laws that are continually passed against them. 

Mary
 

Registered sex offenders to march on Carson City Hall to fight restrictions, March 5, 2015
By Sandy Mazza

A group of convicted sex offenders will march to Carson City Hall on Saturday to demand equal rights to visit fast-food restaurants, parks, libraries and other public areas from which they are now banned. 

The protest is timed to coincide with the date of Martin Luther King Jr.’s voting-rights march to Selma, Ala., 50 years ago to emphasize that the issue is about a denial of constitutionally protected human rights. Carson imposes the state’s harshest restrictions against registered sex offenders. 

“We really want to call it to the attention of the city of Carson that they indeed are violating civil rights of more than 100,000 people and their families,” attorney Janice Bellucci said. “We have multiple court decisions that clearly state that the Carson ordinance violates the state and federal constitutions.” 

Roughly 100,000 registered sex offenders live in California, and about 8,000 of them are on parole and subject to complicated residency restrictions. 
 

On Monday, the California Supreme Court struck down Jessica’s Law, a voter-approved state restriction that says registered sex offenders can’t live within 2,000 feet of a park or school. But Carson’s ordinance takes it a step further, preventing them from going within 300 feet of day-care centers, libraries, swimming pools, and any establishment with a children’s playground or school bus stop.  

The City Council refused to repeal its sex-offender ordinance last September after the state Supreme Court said Jessica’s Law supersedes local ordinances. The decision forced dozens of cities to repeal their local rules, but Carson vowed to fight back. The city is taking on the costly legal battle despite Supreme Court rulings that make it appear unlikely to succeed. 
 
“Pedophiles are a special danger to society, especially outside of prison,” said Councilman Albert Robles, a constitutional law attorney. “Carson is the only city standing firm and fighting for the protection of its residents.” 

The city also prohibits sex offenders on parole from living together in a hotel or motel room, or living within 300 feet of a child-care center or 2,000 feet from a school or park.  

“The Carson City Council has said that they don’t care how the courts rule,” Bellucci said. “They’re going to do what they want to do.” 

Bellucci is suing the city on behalf of two sex offenders who say they’re scared to enter city limits to visit family and friends because of the highly restrictive rules. Under the ordinance, a visit to a fast-food restaurant with a child’s playground would be illegal.  

Carson’s ordinance “does not define a ‘school bus stop,’ ” one of the two nearly identical lawsuits states. “Nor does the ordinance qualify whether a public bus stop that is also used as a school bus stop” would be an illegal place to visit for sex offenders like plaintiffs Frank Lindsay and Nathan Kliewer. 

Robles said Carson officials plan to revise the ordinance to hone in on violent rapists and pedophiles, rather than all people convicted of a sex offense. 

“When people think about sex offenders, they don’t think about the 18-year-old boy with his 17-year-old girlfriend,” Robles said, adding that such offenders shouldn’t be targeted so harshly. “Or the 22-year-old guy leaving the bar and urinating in public.” 

In Monday’s unanimous ruling, the state Supreme Court said Jessica’s Law has made it impossible for many offenders to find housing, hindering their access to treatment for psychological conditions and substance abuse problems, among other things. It also hampers the ability of parole and police officers to monitor their whereabouts and activities, the court found. 

“It thus has infringed their liberty and privacy interests, however limited, while bearing no rational relationship to advancing the state’s legitimate goal of protecting children from sexual predators, and has violated their basic constitutional right to be free of unreasonable, arbitrary and oppressive officials’ action,” Associate Justice Marvin Baxter wrote. 

Michael Risher, senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, said the one-size-fits-all laws aren’t helping prevent sexual abuse. 

“The court’s opinion makes it very clear that this is a public safety issue — that forcing these people to be homeless is bad for public safety,” Risher said. “Pushing people onto the street reduces the chance that they’re going to be able to reintegrate into society and increases the chance that they will re-offend.”