A Whole New Use For Parks: Driving Out Sex Offenders

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The insanity of laws that basically prohibit sex offenders from living anywhere is reaching new heights in Los Angeles. Several itsy-bitsy new parks are being built in the city, but not to give kids a place to play:

State law prohibits sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a park or school. By building the park, officials said, they would effectively force the sex offenders to leave the neighborhood. This section of Harbor Gateway has one of the city’s highest concentrations of registered sex offenders: 86 live in a 13-block area.

Los Angeles plans to build a total of three pocket parks with the intent of driving out registered sex offenders; two will be in [nearby] Wilmington.

This is the end result of policies that have made it impossible for sex offenders to live anywhere. As the rules have multiplied—you can’t live near a park, you can’t live near a school, you can’t live near a daycare center, etc.—there are fewer and fewer places where paroled sex offenders can live. The unintended result of this is that they end up crowding into the very few places left to them. Wilmington still has a few areas outside the welter of overlapping circles where sex offenders are banned, so hundreds congregate there in group homes and hotels that cater to them.

It’s pretty easy to see how even residents who are relatively tolerant of one or two sex offenders living nearby would be pretty unhappy over having hundreds dumped into their community. And they’d be especially unhappy that they’re getting dumped there precisely because their community lacks the amenities of richer neighborhoods. So now they’ve figured out a clever dodge to get rid of them.

This is craziness. I don’t really blame the residents of Wilmington or Harbor Gateway. Their frustration is pretty easy to understand. But it’s craziness nonetheless. The end result will be even further concentrations of sex offenders, and even more frustration. When does it stop?

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Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2020 demands.

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