Benjamin Adams, Staff Writer
In our society, the treatment of sex offenders is a highly debated issue. There are many who believe sex offenders should be treated in a much harsher manner, and there are also those who believe sex offenders are too harshly punished, and stripped of their rights. New propositions and declarations are made constantly, and they are of an extremely diverse nature.
Over 90,000 sex offenders have recently been removed from MySpace in response to efforts made by the Attorney Generals of the states of Connecticut and North Carolina.1 The Fourth Circuit, in their ruling in United States v. Comstock,2 unanimously affirmed the district court’s decision that 18 U.S.C. § 4248 of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act is unconstitutional.3 Many courts have upheld this ruling, which states that Congress does not have the authority to enact § 4248 concerning the civil commitment of sex offenders following their incarceration.4 This struck down section had allowed the U.S. attorney general’s office to obtain a stay, prolonging the federal detention of any person convicted of particular sex-related offenses through a “certification alleging sexual dangerousness.”5 However, provisions of the federal law funding state civil-commitment programs with $10 million each year through 2010 are not overruled.6 In addition, the ruling does not affect the legality of state civil-commitment laws.7 This ruling itself exemplifies the debate of whether sex offenders should be confined. Some cities have gone so far as setting up their own sex offender colonies.8 However, there are also cases in which people feel sex offender registrations and laws may have gone too far. For example, in Georgia, a young promising athlete had his future seriously infringed upon by having consensual, oral sex with a classmate.9
In many states, previous sex offenders must register with the government, and are restricted in where they are able to live and work.10 For instance, in New York, Level 1 sex offenders register for twenty years, while Level 2 and 3 offenders are registered for life.11 Police are able to monitor the movements of the entire offenders list, while the general public can access the list of Level 2 and 3 offenders.12 With the ever growing population of both the general community and registered sex offenders, and the ability of the public to follow the habitation of sex offenders, there is an ongoing debate of where to put all the sex offenders and who will pay for any adjustments to a community that needs to be made.13
The treatment of sex offenders is a highly emotional and debated event. Officials in the Town of Colonie, New York are debating just such an issue.14 The stretch of Central Avenue, which goes through Colonie and has many motels, has become “a dumping ground for sex offenders.”15 Town Supervisor, Paula Mahan, “wants to assemble a task force to examine the issue,” while expanding upon and improving her proposal before having the Colonie Town Board vote on the new regulations.16 Mahan’s proposed legislation prohibits Level 2 and 3 sex offenders whose victims were under the age of seventeen from living or temporarily staying within 1,500 feet of each other, or places where children congregate.17 This, being such a broad definition, and encompassing fifteen different zoning and building types would lead to very large portions of Colonie being inhabitable by any sex offenders.18
The overall treatment of sex offenders is a very wide and emotional issue. The Town of Colonie would not the first to enact such legislation,19 and certainly will not be the last.
Meredith Perry & Eric Schillinger, editors.
1 Jenna Worthman, MySpace Turns Over 90,000 Names of Registered Sex Offenders, N.Y. Times, Feb. 4, 2009, at B4.
2 U.S. v. Comstock, 551 F.3d 274 (4th Cir. 2009).
3 Id. at 284; see 18 U.S.C. § 4248 (2006).
4 Comstock, 551 F.3d at 284; see U.S. v. Volungus, No. 07-12060-GAO, 2009 WL 489838, at *1 (D. Mass. Feb 27, 2009); U.S. v. Tom, 558 F. Supp. 2d 931, 941 (D. Minn. 2008).
5 Rich Daly, Sex-Offender Commitment Law Ruled Unconstitutional, Psychiatric News, Mar. 6, 2009, at 11, http://pn.psychiatryonline.org/cgi/issue_pdf/completeissue_pdf/44/5.pdf (last visited Mar. 31, 2009).
8 See generally Natalie O’Neill, Perversion and Justice: Will the State Help with the Growing Sex Offender Colony Under the Julia Tuttle Causeway?, New Times (Miami), Feb. 19, 2009, at http://www.miaminewtimes.com/2009-02-19/news/city-of-miami-wants-state-to-help-with-sex-offender-colony-under-julia-tuttle-causeway/; John Zarrella & Patrick Oppmann, Florida Housing Sex Offenders Under Bridge, CNN.com, Apr. 6, 2007, http://www.cnn.com/2007/LAW/04/05/bridge.sex.offenders/index.html (last visited Mar. 31, 2009).
9 See Wright Thompson, Outrageous Injustice: Genarlow Wilson, Honor Student, Football Star, had Consensual Sex with a Fellow Teenager. What Happened to Him Next was a Crime, ESPN the Magazine, Jan. 2007, at http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/eticket/story?page=Wilson (last visited Mar. 31, 2009) (explaining the story of Genarlow Wilson’s arrest and conviction of aggravated child molestation).
10 Office of Sex Offender Management, N.Y. State Division of Criminal Justice Services, Sex Offender Registry, http://www.criminaljustice.state.ny.us/nsor/index.htm (last visited Mar. 31, 2009) (providing the general public with information on New York State’s sex offender registry).
13 See generally Burt Prelutsky, Finding a Home for Sex Offenders, Townhall.com, Feb. 9, 2009, at http://townhall.com/columnists/BurtPrelutsky/2009/02/02/finding_a_home_for_sex_offenders (last visited Mar. 31, 2009).
14 Ryan Hutchins, Colonie May Restrict Where Some Sex Offenders Live, Times Union, Feb. 11, 2009, at B6.