May 14, 2014

Shafter suspends enfocement of sex offender ordinance

5-14-2014 California:

SHAFTER, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) --The city of Shafter may repeal an ordinance that bans sex offenders from parks, schools, libraries and other places. The city has already agreed to stop enforcing it, and five other cities in Kern County which have similar ordinances may follow suit.

Shafter adopted the ordinance in 2007. A state-wide non-profit group called California Reform Sex Offender Laws has been targeting cities with rules that restrict where sex offenders can be.

Shafter's ordinance bans sex offenders from being within 300 feet of a school, park, library, day care center, school bus stop and other places. It also prohibits sex offenders from living within 2000 feet of any public or private school, any park where children regularly gather, school bus stop location, children's facility or child daycare center within a city.

Jan Bellucci, an attorney and president of California Reform Sex Offender Laws called the ordinance a bad idea.

"These ordinances violate the constitutions of both the State of California and the federal government. Another reason is that it gives families a false sense of security," said Bellucci.

The attorney said registered sex offenders have a constitutional right to access to information. "When someone on the registry is not allowed to go to a public library, they in fact are being denied access to information," said Bellucci.

Shafter's ordinance was passed after California enacted Jessica's Law in 2006, which prohibits sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park. Shafter's ordinance goes further in that it bans the presence of sex offenders.

The non-profit group has sent letters to 71 cities in California requesting them to repeal such ordinances or face a federal lawsuit.

In a letter to Bellucci dated May 2, 2014, Shafter Mayor Jon Johnston wrote, "The City Attorney will be developing a replacement ordinance that fully complies with State Law, or will advise Council to repeal the ordinance outright....the Council has directed staff, effective immediately, to cease enforcement of our current ordinance."

"We're very pleased that the city of Shafter has in fact communicated with us," said Bellucci

Other cities in Kern County with ordinances similar to Shafter's are California City, Delano, Taft, Tehachapi and Wasco. Kern County also has a sex offender ordinance, but it unlike the others, it does not place restrictions on the presence of sex offenders in certain places.

Other than Shafter, the rest of the cities have yet to decide how they will respond to the request by California Reform Sex Offender Laws.

Bellucci said she anticipates to file suit against three more cities around the state in the next four weeks.

"Unless they change their ordinances, a city in Kern County is sure to be sued," said Bellucci. ..Source.. by Jose Gaspar

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