State officials question isolation of sex offenders
A proposed law banning Kansas sex offenders from living near schools and parks could actually make them more likely to re-offend and harder to supervise, state corrections officials warn.
They say forcing sex offenders from their homes could make them increasingly frustrated, isolated and unemployed -- and therefore more dangerous.
"The danger with restrictions being applied on a broad basis is you could apply a feel-good restriction that actually could conceivably increase risk," said Rick Kendall, who supervises treatment of sex offenders at the Lansing state prison. "If you are isolated and experience negative feelings -- unwanted, unloved -- it can lead to triggers ... that we often find associated with a sexually deviant cycle."
At least 14 states have laws limiting where sex offenders can live, and Kansas House Speaker Doug Mays, R-Topeka, a candidate for governor, says Kansas should be next. He plans to introduce a law creating a 2,000-foot "buffer zone" around schools, parks and day cares.
Mays could not be reached for comment. But Kendall and other Kansas Department of Corrections officials said there had been no studies showing buffer zones for sex offenders improve public safety.
Among the findings cited by KDOC:
- A 2003 study by the Minnesota Department of Corrections found sex offenders' proximity to schools or parks did not make them more likely to offend.
On the contrary, offenders were more likely to travel to another neighborhood in which they could seek victims without being recognized.
- Minnesota also found that overlapping buffer zones in cities could force offenders to rural areas, leaving them with few treatment or employment options.
- In a 2005 survey of 135 sex offenders in Florida, nearly half said the laws had kept them from living with supportive family members. One offender in the survey reported being forced to move from a trailer park because it was near a church -- and ending up in a motel room with three children next door.
- A 2004 Colorado study found sex offenders who relapsed were spread evenly throughout the area and not concentrated near schools or parks.
Frances Breyne, a KDOC spokeswoman, said the department had not received any national research that supported zoning as a risk-reduction strategy for sex offenders. She said the research supported stability, availability and inclusiveness in housing in the continuing effort to monitor sex offenders closely.