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6-7-04 Topic Report: School Bus Stop Laws:
Another No Sex Offender Residency Zone?

»Florida's Designated Public School Bus Stop Law (SB120):

As of 10-1-2004 this law will prohibit schools from placing school bus stops near certain registered sex offender residences (and move any that currently are near certain RSOs), -AND- prohibits certain sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of -Designated Public School- bus stop.

Critical points of the law: 1) "certain registered sex offenders"; 2) "designated public school bus stops"; 3) "no defined method of how ‘distance' should be measured."
"Certain registered sex offenders (RSOs)" means those sex offenders who are designated "conditional release offenders." The law is not applicable to any other registered sex offender (RSO).
"Sen. Mike Fasano trumpeted: 'This legislation has been several years in the making," Fasano said in the release. "No longer will the worst of the worst be allowed to live anywhere near a location where children spend most of their waking lives.'" Florida DOC estimates law will cover 35 offenders." [12] Within Senate Bill 120 it states 'up to 100 offenders per year.' COMMENT: Children spend most of their lives at a bus stop?
"Designated public school bus stops" are not defined, but we can safely assume, by virtue of the wording alone, that all public school bus stops are not included, and that non-public schools are excluded. Further, do you know where your -designated public school bus stops- are?? We bet none are marked so how can an offender know to reside 1,000 foot away?

"No defined method of how ‘distance' should be measured." While this may sound easy, it raises many questions for offenders who currently live in the vicinity of an existing bus stop, as it may mean they would have to move.
For instance: how big is a bus stop, property-lines, from what point within a bus stop do you begin measurement, to what point, within or to edge of, the offender's property? Property-line to property-line, and if so, which property line (most properties have four sides, and curves must be considered)? Further, oft times communities require a, bus stop pulloff (out of the right of way), or area to turn around. These all come into play.

To be fair (but adding chaos to confusion): Current Florida law says, all RSOs are already prohibited from living within 1,000 feet of a "school, day care center, park, playground, or other place where children congregate." That would include the "Certain RSOs" identified earlier. Effectively the current law is being expanded, in a limited fashion, to include designated public school bus stops, and only applicable to certain RSOs (less than 100).

The law is both vague and overbroad. When fundamental rights rights are implicated, the burden is on the state to prove that a statute is narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling state interest and that the least restrictive means is used.

Compelling state interest is what? The law operates on less than 100 offenders when there are thousands. Addresses selected bus stops when there are tens of thousands of them; Pinellas County alone has over 15,000 bus stops. [12]

The administrative costs is far greater than it would be to hire security guards to stand at those -designated school bus stops- that may be near those -100 offenders- each year. Given the facts and applying any reasonable logic, will show how foolish the law is and wasteful of tax dollars during a fiscal crisis; but, it sounds good and will get votes.

Several news article show that the public is misinformed about what the law covers, and exactly who it is applicable to. [16] One even agrees with our findings, and questions its effectiveness as to child safety. [17]
However, behind Florida's law and most others, are two basic theories, one that operates on the schools controlling where they can place bus stops, and one that operates on certain RSOs preventing them from living within xx feet of school bus stops. Thats the theory without all the ands, ifs, or buts. "School bus stop laws" are becoming the cry with legislators nationwide!



OUR ARGUMENT AGAINST SCHOOL BUS STOP RESIDENCY LAWS

Before we are accused of ignoring the safety of children, this must be said. Every bus stop law we have seen nationwide, has been based upon preventing -certain RSOs from -residing near a school bus stop-. Notice carefully -RESIDING-, none of the proposed laws prevents RSOs from standing near, walking to, or any other context, just that they cannot -reside- near one.

None are marked so RSOs know where they are, do you know where they are?? No law calls for marking them, but call for arresting a RSO if s/he is residing within xx feet of them.

The fault is in the logic, the belief, while ignoring reality. Now, if folks cannot see that, their goal must be something other than safety of the children involved. At what point will judges recognize fallacy as further punishment?

Without any further ado, and without all the ands, ifs, or buts, we will explore the fallacy of the theory behind school bus stop laws. No matter how many offenders may be subject to the law, the principle of the law needs to be explored beyond "it protects children" permitting anything.
The first being, and was pointed out by a federal judge in Iowa (in a residency law case), no one could find any case of a sex offender who lived within, say 1,000 feet, of a school bus stop, who abducted a child from the bus stop and took them to the offender's home (also within 1,000 feet of that bus stop) and committed a sex crime against that child.[13] Allowing that the scenario is possible, although in 2000 years not one case could be found, I'll move on.

A HIDDEN RESIDENCY LAW?:
Behind school bus stop theory is, to control where sex offenders live, making this another residency law. A horse of a different color, is still a horse.

Nationwide there are schools in communities, all have some form of school bus transportation, generally for children living more than a mile from their school.[15] Schools assume that children within a certain distance from the school, can walk to school. Generally handicapped children are picked up at their home no matter what the distance.
School and School Bus Buffer Zones:
If every school buffer zone were likened to a mushroom cap, with the area beneath being where sex offenders could not reside, our nation would be a big mushroom patch with mushrooms dotted here and there, likewise are individual communities with their schools.

Now, if a school buffer zone (xx feet -or- 1,000 feet in Florida) and school bus stop buffer zones are the same size, then in any community there would be little space, if any, open for sex offenders to reside in without running afoul of the law. (Pinellas County Florida has over 15,000 different school bus stops. [12] End-to-End 7,000 miles, wider than the United States, but they are allowed to overlap.) So we have a school established mushroom patch, blotting out sex offenders.

Sex Offender Residency Zones:
Now another law-flaw: When the first RSO finds a place in the suburbs, outside of all proscribed areas, then that automatically establishes a equal size buffer zone around that RSO where schools may not ever establish a bus stop. This principle is duplicated for all new RSOs who find places to live in the suburbs. Remember RSO buffer zones can overlap, but not overlap school established buffer zones. Now we have RSO established mushroom patches, blotting out new school bus stops.

Handicapped Bus Stop Buffer Zones:
Public schools must provide access for handicapped children, therefore their policies for school bus stops must apply to handicapped bus stops. However, for these kids their bus stop is their front door. Would each home of a handicapped student, establish its own protective zone (mushroom cap) equivalent to the other bus stops, and therefore also block out sex offenders?
Maybe -designated public school bus stops- means to exclude these handicapped stops, but I'd hate to believe that handicapped students are deserving of a lesser level of safety. A very recent US Supreme court case [14] on handicap access to public services and facilities, may guide any state that wishes to exclude these students.

Miscellaneous Buffer Zones:
Compound the above mushroom caps, with those for day cares, playgrounds, and other places where children congregate, also found in communities, established by the other residency law, and RSOs must move to the suburbs (or sub-suburbs, etc.) to find a place to live. So we have these miscellaneous established mushroom patch, blotting out sex offenders also.

Community Growth:
As communities grow, they expand to the suburbs, but new schools, are in serious trouble because, older school systems forced sex offenders into the -then suburbs-, and now there is no land for new schools. However, if new schools move into area where older sex offenders live, then schools cannot establish bus stops because of the older sex offenders who have lived there for some time, being forced there in the past. School & community growth is stunted by the bus stop laws!

Answers?:
One answer is, for schools to move further out into the suburbs, and if so then the cycle begins all over. The other answer is, to force older RSOs to move, but there are many constitutional questions (family, contracts, mortgages, etc.) and who pays for this and the costs related to getting re-established, and increased living costs, further out in the new sub-suburbs or sub-sub-suburbs? When it gets to this point, courts will put a stop to residency laws.

Iowa Resideny Laws:
Iowa tried to force RSOs to move, RSOs and Spouses brought a lawsuit in federal court, and the court ruled the residency laws unconstitutional.[14] True that case did not deal with bus stops, but as I described bus stops above, so will a sharp lawyer in court.
What is so incredible is, that it appears that legislators cannot think beyond getting elected, public safety is simply their pretext. I can say that because, all sex offenders can walk and drive beneath all the mushroom caps, they just cannot live beneath them.


CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM:
While the schools are doing their job with buffer zones, the criminal justice system continues to operate. New sex offenders are convicted, and incarcerated sex offenders are released into communities.
NOTE: The majority of new sex offenses (96%+)[10] are not committed by previously convicted sex offenders but are committed by someone that is known to the victim or related to them in some way. So the argument that, as you convict new sex offenders, you will open up most of the sex offender created mushroom patches, would be false.
Administrative Nightmare:
All forms of residency laws create an administrative nightmare for parole and probation officers, courts and parole boards. Sex offenders who are convicted and sent to prison are not the problem in the community, but any placed on probation or released from prison must find a place to live in the community; each establishing their own mushroom cap zone. The problem begins with these folks who remain under state supervision.

Most all offenders, when first released from incarceration, will be under the supervision of a probation or parole officer. These agents must periodically check on anyone under their jurisdiction. Currently the Megans' laws are causing offenders to move frequently, landlords simply get tired of being harassed about renting to them.

The logic of the new bus stop laws reduce, if not eliminate, places to live for RSOs, so they must move further away where there are no prohibited zones establishing new mushroom caps. As communities grow offenders are forced to move even further away, the state's cost of monitoring them goes sky high. Parole and probation agents simply do not have time to be driving further and further away to do the checking.

One of two things happens, either agents stop checking on some RSOs (those furthest away) or the state must open another parole and probation office further out into the sub-suburbs. Either, community safety suffers, or the costs go up, all as a result of bus stop laws. Good laws, or Sounds-Good laws?
How long will it take before the courts will not be able to put folks on probation, or the parole board will not be able to parole inmates, simply because no housing arrangements can be made? In case anyone thinks that cannot happen, it is happening today, to sex offenders who are being released from civil commitment.


CLUSTERING (COLONIZATION) OF SEX OFFENDERS:
Over time, more and more prohibited zones will be created -schools, day cares, playgrounds, Amusement parks, and other places where children congregate- each creating its own mushroom cap, and RSOs will begin to cluster themselves into areas where they are permitted to live, if there is affordable housing available. Without housing they will be homeless and all residency laws are defeated, and the premise of public safety looses all meaning.

So the natural consequence of residency type laws, is clusters of RSOs (colonization). Alas, will it bother those communities? What will their legislators say, will they be happy they voted for school bus stop laws, or other residency laws, then?

Arizona Recognizes Clustering, but, Not Its Cause:

»2-13-04 Arizona: Sex offender clusters targeted! City officials have given their support to a handful of bills designed to crack down on sex offender clusters - similar to the one that caused a recent uproar in a central Phoenix neighborhood. The proposed legislation tries to address virtually every aspect of the issue, from increasing mandatory prison time for offenders who commit certain crimes against children to toughening neighborhood notification laws. "I don't think until recently we realize how many sex offenders there actually are out there," Councilman Claude Mattox said. "I think we've either lived denying it or just not recognizing the severity of the situation."

• House Bill 2135, which would sentence sex offenders who fail to register to lifetime probation.; • House Bill 2418, which would require that landlords who rent to more than three sex offenders pay a $100,000 bond for each additional sex offender living at the property.; • Senate Bill 1307, which would make it illegal for a sex offender to live within 100 yards of a private public or charter school, child care facility, playground or swimming pool. (Ginger D. Richardson, The Arizona Republic)....more....

Arizona Legislature Thinks It Has A Resolution to Clustering:
Forcing Offenders to Spread Out (Forming New Clusters) and Fine the Landlords?

Commentary:
Bad Habits: Learned from neighbors and co-workers?

Bad habits, an airborne virus, or extra sensory perception ESP? At lease one Arizona legislator feels these are a 'learned trait' by associating with another human who possesses them, not so with 'good habits' though.

Gullett said when sex offenders live together, "they tend to learn each other's bad habits,'' she said.

Notice that, no research report is cited for this claim. It is clear this legislator has failed to read any research about sex offenders, or how habits are learned, and having none resorts to absurdity.

Maybe I'm wrong, but, several legislators (a hyper cluster) knowingly voted for this unconstitutional law, so maybe there is some truth to -when folks work together- they tend to learn each other's bad habits?

»4-11-04 Arizona: Panel limits sex offender clustering! PHOENIX -- A Senate panel agreed Thursday to limit how many sex offenders can live in the same apartment complex even though several lawmakers said what they are doing probably is unconstitutional.

The legislation approved by the Family Services Committee seeks to impose stiff fines on landlords who rent to more than three sex offenders or have offenders in more than 10 percent of their total number of apartments, whichever figure is greater. A judge could put in a receiver to run the property if owners violate the law.

HB 2418 is designed to prevent what Rep. Deb Gullett, R-Phoenix, called "hyper clustering'' of sex offenders, with some landlords more hospitable -- and perhaps catering -- to registered sex offenders. Gullett said when sex offenders live together, "they tend to learn each other's bad habits,'' she said.

But he said landlords have rights, too. "These are people who own property who, as best we can tell, have never committed a crime, aren't committing a crime, and we're going to take their rights, which I hold very high, away from them,'' he said.

HB 2418 piggy backs on existing laws dealing with slum conditions [NOTE: Actually it declares any place with more than 3 sex offenders, a SLUM] like lack of drinking water or the presence of human waste, explosives or medical wastes. It says landlords who rent to more than the permitted number of sex offenders are subject to the same penalty of $10,000 plus $5,000 for each month compliance does not occur.

Sen. Mark Anderson, R-Mesa, who chairs the panel, said those who believes approval of this legislation will make any difference are kidding themselves. "The day it goes into effect, there will be a lawsuit,'' he said. Anderson predicted that, at the very least, a judge will block implementation of the statute, meaning no one will be forced to move for the year or more it takes to resolve the legal issues. (HOWARD FISCHER, Capitol Media Services)....more....

This Michigan reporter acts as thought he found a lost civilization:

»5-4-04 Michigan: Bizarre trend unfolds with sex offenders! A bizarre trend is unfolding involving sex offenders. The ABC12 News I-Team uncovered interesting trends with sex offenders, and the fact they're found in every part of Mid Michigan. ABC12's Joel Doepker has spent weeks looking at the numbers. We've found them living in the city and the suburbs, oftentimes living on the same block.

The ABC12 News I-Team poured over the state's sex offender Web site numbers that lists the number of sex offenders by zip codes. We discovered a bizarre trend, with registered sex offenders living in clusters.

"If there are is a location that they seem to group to, as far as what income level in a city or suburbs, I wouldn't be able to speculate," said the Michigan Department of Corrections' Russ Marlan. It's important to note not all convicted sex offenders are rapists or child molesters. A fourth-degree charge could involve inappropriate touching. (Joel Doepker)....more....


So far we have said that "school bus stop laws, and residency laws" will cause clustering, but in the examples above neither state has any such laws (as of those articles), so how is this happening?

There are two major causes, Parole & Probation Agents -AND- Landlords. Parole & Probation Agents make sure RSOs, as a class, do not live where there are children; state supervision residency rules. Likewise, landlords treat RSOs as a class too, getting information from sex offender registries, and impose their own landlord residency rules. i.e., no sex offenders.
Throughout history society has created laws and rules to exclude people, by race, nationality, sex, gender, religion, disability, and each time it resulted in opposite laws forcing society to integrate the class that was excluded.

Sex offender registration and Community Notification, has caused exclusionary laws for RSOs as a class, and it began in New Jersey. That state has now included, in its registration laws, the following:
"2C:7-16 Authorized use of disclosed information; prohibited uses: c. Except as authorized under any other provision of law, use of any of the information disclosed pursuant to this act for the purpose of applying for, obtaining, or denying any of the following, is prohibited: (1)Health insurance; (2)Insurance; (3)Loans; (4)Credit; (5)Education, scholarships, or fellowships; (6)Benefits, privileges, or services provided by any business establishment, unless for a purpose consistent with the enhancement of public safety; or (7)Housing or accommodations."
New Jersey has gone full cycle, what about the rest of the nation?

Should legislators analyze the effects of their legislation beforehand? If legislators fail at this task, courts will intervene, as they did in Iowa.

eAdvocate


Resources
10:96% calculated as follows: Tieing victim reports with recidivists we have: In 1994 432,750 victim reports. In 1994 3.5% of sex offender released from prison recidivated. Accordingly, (100% - 3.5% = 96.5%) 96.5% of 432,750 = 417,603 committed by someone other than a previously convicted sex offender.
The Department of Justice Reports citing from: A) "Recidivism of Sex Offenders Released from Prison in 1994" (40 pg PDF) reported that, 3.5% of sex offenders (men who had previously committed a rape or sexual assault) were RECONVICTED for another sex crime within 3 years following their release; B) "Criminal Victimization in The United States, 1994 (160 pg PDF file)" shows 432,750 reported Rape/Sexual Assault incidents for 1994, as reported by victims.

12: "Sex offender law criticized for increasing risk" by STEVE THOMPSON (5-16-2004) St. Petersburg Times; "Moving of school bus stops debated" by Marc Freeman (5-18-2004) The Sun-Sentinel.

13: Doe -v- Miller 3:03-cv-90067 (298 F.Supp 2d 844 S.D. Iowa, 2-9-2004, appeal pending). (63 pg PDF file)

14: TENNESSEE v. LANE et al.No. 02—1667. Argued January 13, 2004–Decided May 17, 2004

15: Policies, Procedures, & Guidelines: Stow-Munroe Falls City Schools, Department of Transportation

16: "Schools may need to move bus stops" by MICHAEL BARBER (5-25-2004) Bradenton Herald; "Law Targets Sex Offenders Near Bus Stops" by Cathleen O'Toole (5-14-2004) First Coast News; "Bus stop law creates controversy" (5-25-2004) BayNews9.com.

17: "Bus Stop Rule Needs Thought" by South Florida Sun-Sentinel Editorial Board (5-24-2004).


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