Monday, April 5, 2010

Expert Warns Sex Offender Restrictions Could be Dangerous (Wisconsin): Expert warns local sex offender restrictions could be dangerous.

Madison -- An expert with the state Department of Corrections told a panel of state lawmakers Thursday that local ordinances restricting where sex offenders can live actually put children more at risk.

Dr. Anna Salter urged a state Senate panel to pass a bill that would end the more than 100 local sex offender ordinances throughout Wisconsin. Those ordinances make a couple fundamental presumptions: that sex offenders are likely to reoffend and that kids are safer if offenders don't live near places like libraries or parks.

But Dr. Salter--a psychologist with 30 years of experience assessing and treating offenders--told Senators that there's no data to back that up. She's concerned "residency restrictions may put children more at risk, rather than less."

Salter says the reality is that sex offenders reoffend only about a fourth as often as other offenders. And most of the time their victims are people they know like family members. Assaults involving complete strangers in places like public parks are rare.

So when local ordinances restrict where they can live, Salter says they end up moving where it's harder for them to keep jobs and find the support they need.