December 9, 2011

Edwardsville repeals sex offender ordinance

12-9-2011 Pennsylvania:

Edwardsville Borough council voted unanimously Thursday to repeal an ordinance that restricts where sexual offenders may live in the borough.

Edwardsville's ordinance, passed in 2006, made it illegal for sexual offenders to live within 2,000 feet of a school, child care facility, common open space, community center, public park or recreational facility. Using the law's boundaries, most of the borough was off-limits for residence to sex offenders.

A decision this year from the state supreme court said a similar ordinance was unconstitutional, prompting the borough to reconsider its own law, said solicitor William T. Finnegan, Jr.

According to that court case, it is up to the state, not municipalities, to place restrictions on sexual offenders. Pennsylvania law does not restrict where a sexual offender may reside, but judges and probation or parole officers can put restrictions on what activities a convicted sexual offender may participate in during his or her supervision period, said Assistant District Attorney Jenny Roberts.

They may also prohibit a sexual offender from living in a household with minors.

As an assistant district attorney, Roberts can ask a judge to impose restrictions on a defendant.

"When I have someone who commits a crime against a child, the restrictions I put are no contact with that child, no unsupervised contact with any children, no contact with schools, school zones, school activities, public parks, playground, libraries, pools, or any place children frequent," she said.

Generally, judges grant the restrictions she asks for, Roberts said.

Finnegan said he thought those restrictions also extended to as far as where a convicted offender could live. He said he planned to send a letter to the district attorney's office asking that the attorneys seek the maximum restrictions for sexual offenders.

Other municipalities in the area have sex offender ordinances. Kingston Manager Paul Keating remembers when the municipality passed a law restricting where sexual offenders could not live.

"I think council thought it was the right thing to do and in the best interests of the community at time to enact such legislation, because everyone else was doing it," Keating said. "Ordinances such as this, I think go a long way with the public. However when you look at the nuts and bolts of the ordinance, it really doesn't make the community any safer." ..Source.. by Bill Wellock

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