Committee recommends eliminating residency restrictions for sex offenders

COLUMBUS (WCMH) – A proposed change to Ohio’s Criminal Code could eliminate residency restrictions for sex offenders.

The Criminal Justice Recodification Committee has finished reviewing Ohio’s extensive criminal code after two years. However, not everyone agrees with some of its recommendations.

The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) opposes this specific recommended change, saying it’s meant to keep children safe. Right now, sex offenders cannot live within 1,000 feet of a school, daycare center or pre-school.

“They made some recommendations on a variety of bills,” said director of government affairs for the FOP Michael Weinman. “One of the most alarming is allowing the sex offenders to live anywhere.”

He said the restrictions create a safe zone in areas where there’s a concentration of children.

“From a police perspective you’re getting the potential offenders away from those victims,” said Weinman.

State Public Defender and vice chair of the Criminal Justice Recodification Committee Tim Young said there’s no empirical data that shows these restrictions protect kids.

He said residency restrictions can leave some sex offenders homeless, which can create more problems.

“As soon as you destabilize someone to homelessness you’re far more likely for them to commit another crime,” said Young. “There’s a higher likelihood of crime with these restrictions than without.”

He said eventually some of these offenders stop reporting to sheriffs and probation officers, leaving law enforcement without any oversight or control.

“I want our government to spend money on things that are effective and if we’re spending money on this and we spend millions on this, on enforcing these restrictions, on enforcing registration requirements,” said Young. “I know that means we’re taking money away from actually making my children safe.”

He said the Recodification Committee had a broad range of members including prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges and law enforcement officials. Young said they’re hopefully their recommendations will be introduced as an omnibus bill when the next legislative session begins.

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