August 4, 2011

Washington County mulls future of sex offender residency law

8-4-2011 New York:

FORT EDWARD -- Washington County officials want the public to sound off on whether to overturn a local law that regulates where sex offenders can live and work.

Members of the Public Safety Committee voted 5-2 in favor of pushing a resolution forward to have the full Board of Supervisors schedule a public hearing on the local law, which was adopted in January of 2009.

The county's sex offender law prohibits sex offenders from living or working within 1,000 feet of public or private elementary, middle or high schools, child care facilities, parks, playgrounds, public or private youth centers, public swimming areas and libraries. Facilities operated by the New York State Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities or the Warren and Washington Counties Chapter of NYSARC are also on that list.

A number of other counties across the state have adopted similar laws.

Recently, however, many of those measures have faced litigation and were repealed in favor of the state law.

At Wednesday's Public Safety Committee meeting, County Attorney Roger Wickes recommended the supervisors revisit their local law. He said there is a potential for a costly legal battle if the law is not repealed.

"Seventeen counties have these things, and eight have been overturned," he said. "I find it very telling that none of these counties who lost have decided to appeal."

If any county covered by the 3rd Judicial Department of the Supreme Court Appellate Division appealed such rulings and won, Wickes said, Washington County's law would be upheld, too.

The 3rd Department covers Washington, Warren and Saratoga counties, among others.

Because the state residency requirements for sex offenders are more lax than the county's requirements, some supervisors questioned the constitutionality of the local law.

The state Sex Offender Registration Act does not restrict where a registered sex offender may live. If the offender is under parole or probation supervision, however, other state laws may limit the offender from living within 1,000 feet of a school or other facility that cares for children.

Argyle Supervisor Bob Henke said the county is being more strict that the courts.

"I think we're saying, ‘Here is a punishment that goes on forever,'" he said.

Hartford Supervisor Dana Haff said the county enacted the law because of the belief that sex offenders can't be rehabilitated.

"I'm not in favor of coddling them," Henke said in response to Haff. "I'm in favor of something else."

Social Services Commissioner Tammy DeLorme said the county law makes it more difficult for her department to find affordable housing for sex offenders, which forces the county to put offenders in motels for long periods of time.

The longest social services personnel had a sex offender stay in a motel was from October to July, and that was a Level 3 offender, DeLorme said.

"Currently, there are six sex offenders in (Washington County) motels," she said.

Probation Director Anthony White said the law has caused overtime issues for the probation officers in his department. Specifically, the law has a tendency to drive people underground, making it harder for probation officers to find offenders for routine checks, he said.

Many sex offenders, he said, are homeless, which creates stress for the offender.

"When they feel stressed, they are more likely to re-offend," he said.

Currently, Washington County Undersheriff Matthew Mabb said there are a total of 223 sex offenders in Washington County, including offenders who are incarcerated in other counties but who have residences in Washington County.

The Board of Supervisors will vote to schedule a public hearing on the local law at its next meeting on Aug. 19. ..Source.. by Lydia Wheeler

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Articles such as these are becoming more frequent. They bring to light the injustices FSO's have to endure as a seperate class of convicted offenders. I think alot of credit should go to the FSO's who are challenging the validity of these laws throughout the States. These events are very promising as they establish legal
precedent through the States. The courts are becoming more outspoken on the ineffectiveness of these laws and the broad based PUNISHMENT
that is given to ALL FSO's regardless of thier danger to society.