Zoned Out: Sex Offender Residency Restrictions

Article excerpt

A JERSEY City ordinance that took effect in December bars sex offenders from living within 2,500 feet of a school, day care center, park, playground, sports facility, library, theater, or convenience store. Together those zones cover virtually the entire city.

Across the country, politicians are eager to draw circles of protection they claim will keep children safe from molesters. Hundreds of municipalities and more than 20 states have laws that restrict where sex offenders may live. But critics say these zones of exclusion are ineffective, sometimes counterproductive, and frequently unjust.

Consider the Georgia woman who was labeled a sex offender because she performed fellatio on a 15-year-old when she was 17. In 2005 she had to move because she was too close to a day care center. Now she and her husband may have to move again because they're too close to a school bus stop, a location added to the state's list of restrictions last April.

Georgia's law, which has been challenged in federal court, also would exile all 490 registered sex offenders in DeKalb County. …