A national group that seeks to improve treatment programs for sex offenders has filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court to back a lawsuit that challenges Iowa’s law that restricts where sex offenders may live. David Singleton, a lawyer working with the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers, says the group isn’t an apologist for sex offenders.
Singleton says the organization is primarily focused on preventing sex abuse, and the organization’s leaders believe the sex offender residency restrictions springing up around the country are terrible. “Terrible because they undermine the stability of offenders, which makes it more likely that they’re going to re-offend,” Singleton says. “In any event, these statutes don’t do anything to protect children.”
Singleton says the laws aren’t based on science, but are just a political reaction to try to make people feel more secure. “But when you do that, you lull people into a false sense of security so from a public policy standpoint, it’s an absolute disaster,” Singleton says. He says the Association for Treatment of Sex Offenders believes the law is ridiculous since over 85 percent of child sex abuse is committed in the child’s home by someone they know.
High profile cases where a stranger snatches a child and sexually abuses the kid are “extremely rare” according to Singleton. He says the quick reaction of forbidding convicted sex offenders from living near schools or parks does nothing to protect the child who’s abused by someone they know. Ohio has a new law that bans sex offenders from living within one-thousand feet of a school.
Singleton says Ohio’s law is “worse” than Iowa’s because it covers all sex offenders, not just those who committed a sex crime against a minor.
Iowa’s residency restrictions apply only to those convicted of sexually abusing someone under the age of 18. The law was passed in 2002 but not implemented because of a lawsuit. A federal appeals court has upheld the State of Iowa’s authority to ban sex offenders from living near schools and daycares and the law went into effect earlier this year. Singleton says he’s been battling Ohio’s law since February, and they have a “great interest” in having the U.S. Supreme Court review Iowa’s law because it’s so similar. Singleton is the executive director of the Ohio Justice and Policy Center and helped write the legal brief filed at the U.S. Supreme Court.