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Letter from the Editor

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Offending the poor rapists

I think perhaps I have now seen it all.

A bunch of Iowa convicted sexual offenders have taken the state to federal court, claiming THEY are being discriminated against by SOCIETY.

They say the 2002 state law that made it illegal for sexual offenders to live within 2,000 feet of a school or daycare center is unconstitutional and mean. The Iowa Civil Liberties Union predictably sided with the sex abusers in their vocal quest for their just dues.

Of course, the sex offenders filing the suit also have their names hidden for them, and are being known by "John Doe" and a number. Unless everyone gets that legal option, aren't they are the ones discriminating...?

The sexual offenders say the law unfairly cuts down on their real estate options, in effect nearly banishing them from some areas that they would like to live that may have numerous schools and day cares.

Care to cry for them?

Some of the complainants say the rules make it hard for them to move in with their parents when they get paroled from prison. One said he had to leave a nice apartment in the city and move into a nasty rural farmhouse.

They seek a court permanent restraining order against the law. It is hampering their treatment and return to society by keeping them away from the schoolgrounds and day care neighborhoods, apparently.

Excuse me, but I think that's the whole idea. Many of those the law applies to have abused small children in the sickest fashion, and scarred them for life. People have been released from prison despite being listed on the public registry of sex offenders (another policy some of them have protested) as a high risk to reoffend.

If the public had their choice, many of them would not be let out of prison at all, let alone welcomed to move in next door to where innocent children play. And if they couldn't find nice enough digs away from the child zones, well, there are other states to go to.

One of the convicted sexual offenders told the judge that having to move to a different place away from the children's zones was "hard emotionally" on the families.

No doubt. Sexual abuse is pretty hard on their victims' families emotionally, too. But assailants don't grant any rights to their victims, do they?

Somehow, we are to be twisted to believe that the assailants are now the victims. That we as a state are inconveniencing them, and should be damned sorry.

The concept may hold sway in the court system of a litigious society, and it may make a few bucks for some lawyers and get a little attention for the ICLU, but I doubt if many in the general public feel they have compromised the rights of sexual assailants too much.

There are shades of gray worthy of examination, of course. I'm told that one of the plaintiffs considered as a sexual offender, "John Doe 14," was actually convicted of a misdemeanor indecent exposure charge as a teenager when a college party got out of hand. If so, perhaps there is room for some examination of what should constitute a sex offense on the 10-year rolls and which forms of the crime actually represent a risk for future assaults.

It's also not impossible to envision a compromise where the school zone rule could be applied to primarily those who have targeted juveniles with their crimes.

Yet I'm hard pressed to see where a convicted sexual assailant of a child should ever be allowed to live near a school playground. That's lunacy; and it's asking for trouble, temptation and suffering. For their own future well being as well as the children's, the parolees should not want to be anywhere near there.

Unconstitutional? As a state, we have a right and a responsibility to make laws that will protect our children.

Yes, give the sex offenders every right to which they are entitled under the law.

But innocent children have a right too, to be safe from harm. The court should consider their rights as well before they dismantle this protection solely to make life easier for the poor, deprived sexual assailant.

If it is that hard to live with the real estate implications of their acts, maybe they should ask themselves who brought it on. Not the state, the law, or the court.

Truly, they have only themselves to blame.