It seemed like a common-sense precaution to protect children: Prohibit sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school. But that simple premise – which has been law in Ohio since 2003 and Kentucky since 2006 – is quickly degenerating into a legislative free-for-all, fraught with unintended consequences, controversy and constitutional questions, reports the Cincinnati Enquirer. The Ohio and Kentucky supreme courts are poised this fall to decide if the laws are unconstitutional because they subject offenders to further punishment after they’ve served their sentences.
Meanwhile, evidence suggests that residency restrictions may be counterproductive, forcing sex offenders underground and lulling parents into a false sense of security. As more areas become off-limits, sex offenders are being concentrated into neighborhoods with few schools and inexpensive housing. At least 60 percent of Cincinnati’s housing units are off-limits to sex offenders, according to a study by the Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission.