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Proposed Bill Tries to Banish Sex Offenders From Society

The state of Oregon has been tightening the legal restrictions on convicted sex offenders on many levels in recent years. Nationally, these restrictions include registration requirements, residential limitations, and, in some states and the federal system, the possibility of civil commitment after a prison sentence is completed. But at some point, continually adding more restrictions reaches a point of diminishing returns.

A case in point is House Bill 3340, proposed by Rep. Tim Freeman (R-Rosenberg). The bill would make it a crime for a convicted sex offender to reside within 1,000 feet of a school.

Rep. Freeman, speaking to the House Judiciary Committee, said that "[t]his bill is saying we should have a little bit of a protection zone around our schools so that children feel safe." Those found in violation of the proposed bill would face a maximum of five years in prison and a $125,000 fine.

This bill would add an overly onerous restriction to the list of conditions that Oregon normally applies to a sex offender's place of residence. The courts, and the county or state supervisory authority responsible for the offender, already have near complete authority over where a convicted sex offender may live. The courts and supervising agencies also routinely impose strict conditions on places where the offender may not be present and persons, particularly minors, with whom the offender may not associate. For example it is a routinely imposed condition that such offenders not be present within 1,000 feet of a school, or playground - even in city parks. Violations of these rules already subject these persons to jail and prison sentences.

We realize that these restrictions are meant to protect children and to keep an offender out of situations where he or she may be tempted to re-offend. But banning an offender from living within 1,000 feet of a school would essentially banish sex offenders to rural areas. In Portland for example it would be nearly impossible to reside anywhere in the city limits without violating the residency or travel and presence restrictions. Portland's convicted sex offenders would in essence be banished to more rural, outlying areas. Ironically, these areas would tend to have less services and less ability to monitor the offenders.

Not only would rural communities be put at risk. The offenders themselves would face even further barriers to reforming themselves. Seth Prouser, a Marion County parole and probation deputy, said such a ban would "increase [the sex offender's] isolation and decrease opportunities for employment, housing and treatment ... [possibly] increase[ing] recidivism, not reduc[ing] it."

There are competing interests when it comes to reintroducing convicted sex offenders into society. However, this bill fails to recognize the dignity of the person being brought back into society by essentially exiling them to the countryside.

Additionally the bill itself transfers the public safety concerns of larger communities on smaller ones and places both the offenders and public at risk

If you face charges that could leave you registering as a sex offender, it is imperative that you seek experienced and aggressive legal representation.

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