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Friday, May 20, 2016

Action Item: Abolish Residency Restrictions for RSO’s in Virginia!


Residency Restrictions for Registered Sex Offenders have been widely proven to be not only useless but dangerous to communities. 

Virginia does have Residency Restrictions § 18.2-370.3. for “a limited group” of Registered Sex Offenders. 

Who is included in the Virginia “limited group” of our Residency Restriction Statute?  
These three crimes (some are July 1 2006 and some are 2008):
Ø       § 18.2-61. Rape
Ø       § 18.2-67.1. Forcible sodomy
Ø       § 18.2-67.2. Object sexual penetration 

But while in the commission of:
Ø       § 18.2-47. Abduction and kidnapping
Ø       § 18.2-48. Abduction with intent to extort money or for immoral purpose
Ø       § 18.2-89. Burglary
Ø       § 18.2-90. Entering dwelling house, etc., with intent to commit murder, rape, robbery or arson
Ø       § 18.2-91. Entering dwelling house, etc., with intent to commit larceny, assault and battery or other felony
Ø       § 18.2-51.2. Aggravated malicious wounding 

After the May 6th Pew Trust Residency Restriction piece I wondered how many Virginia RSO’s are actually regulated by § 18.2-370.3. 

So on May 17th I submitted a FOIA to the Virginia State Police who is the official monitor and manager of Virginia’s RSO’s and the VSP Registry. 

I asked 3 very straight forward questions of the VSP:
  1. How many Registered Sex Offenders in Virginia are obligated to follow § 18.2-370.3.
Ø     There are 4 sections (A-D) for convictions to this statute if you can separate the totals into these four groups that would be fine, if not one large number will work too. 

  1. Does the VSP verify the distance for RSO’s ahead of time if asked so the RSO doesn’t sign a lease or buy property that could be in violation of the law?
  2. If an RSO’s residence is found to be in violation of § 18.2-370.3. what steps are then taken/the process by the VSP? 
Ø     Is the RSO given 10, 20 or 30 days to vacate the property OR are they charged by the VSP with a crime and arrested?   
 
Here are the VSP’s answers:
  1. Report does not exist containing the information you are seeking.  All research regarding convictions is archived and would need to be searched manually for each offender.
Ø     Report does not exist
  1. Yes
  2. A criminal investigation would be initiated.  
Ø     The offender would need to be in compliance immediately because he/she would be in violation of the law.
 
I find 3 very concerning points in the VSP’s answers to my FOIA.  

I- The number of RSO’s subject to abide by § 18.2-370.3. is an unknown to the VSP, but yet they are required to confirm the RSO’s aren’t in violation. 

II- If asked by an RSO the VSP will verify a distance ahead of time, but the VSP provided no time-frame to get an RSO an answer nor did they provide any details to the process, is paperwork filled out that can be tracked/kept or is it all verbal? 

III- If an RSO doesn’t know they fall under Virginia’s Residency Restriction group OR that a “daycare facility” is nearby and they move into their new residence, the State of Virginia gives them NO time to move out and they will be charged with a felony. 

…and yet Virginia Legislators have attempted to expand the Residency Restrictions 3 times since I became a volunteer advocate.
Ø       2010- HB1004             Del. Athey (retired, became a judge), Del. Albo, Sen. Vogel
Ø       2011- HB1123               Del. Oder (retired)
Ø       2015- HB1505              Del. Albo
 

#7 of my 28 Legislative Fixes (or Goals) has always been to Repeal Virginia’s Myth-Based, Hate-Driven Residency Restrictions 

Now that we know the actual number of RSO’s who are required to follow the Virginia law is unknown by the VSP and that if an RSO mistakenly moves into a prohibited zone is given NO time to move out before charges are filed I’m proposing that 2017 is the year to repeal Virginia’s Residency Restriction law. 

All the literature on residency restrictions points to the same conclusion: restricting where sex offenders can live doesn’t appear to increase public safety one iota. It may decrease it, however, because the "unintended consequences of residence restrictions include transience, homelessness, instability, and other obstacles to community reentry." Since "unemployment, unstable housing, and lack of support are associated with increased criminal recidivism," and housing restrictions lead to all three, they're a bad idea, Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers argues (ATSA).  

It’s time to repeal Virginia’s existing Residency Restrictions that limits former-offender’s options for housing, creates an unnecessary barrier for a successful re-entry back into our communities and could result in an arbitrary felony because they are given no time to vacate if it turns out there is an unknown daycare nearby.
 
Please contact:
  1. Your one Virginia Delegate and one Senator and ask them to patron legislation at the next (2017) Virginia General Assembly session to repeal Virginia statute § 18.2-370.3
  2. The Virginia ACLU and ask them to step up and voice their opposition (as other ACLU Chapters across the US have) to oppose all Residency Restrictions and to get § 18.2-370.3 repealed in 2017.
Thank you for your support! 

Mary Devoy