In addition to online registries of convicted sex offenders, towns in the last few years enacted laws to keep such criminals from living near schools, parks, day-care centers, and bus stops. But now they're repealing these provisions, as a result of a state Supreme Court ruling in May that invalidated one statute.
New Jersey municipalities did the same after the N.J. Supreme Court ruled residency restrictions invalid in 2009.
"The repeals are overdue," said Don Driscoll of the Community Justice Project, who argued the case against Allegheny County before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. "The laws contributed to enhanced risk of public safety, instead of the opposite. They exclude sex offenders from stabilized housing, employment, and treatment, all of which have been identified as factors in recidivism.
As communities move away from policies that treat such offenders as the modern-day equivalent of lepers, will citizens be at greater risk - or will offenders have a better chance of living normal lives without becoming repeat offenders?
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