Restrictions for Alabama sex offenders – and the penalties they incur for violating those restrictions – are severe.
And yet, our Alabama sex offender defense attorneys understand that some groups are trying to make it even tougher.
House Bill 21, pre-filed on Oct. 2 in advance of next year’s legislative session, would require monitoring of residential sex offender “clusters,” such that the Department of Mental Health could require that certain sex offenders live a fair distance from other sex offenders.
It’s worth noting that under state law, registered sex offenders are already barred from living and/or working within 2,000 feet of a school, child care facility or the alleged victim in the case for which he or she was sentenced.
A sex offender “cluster” would be defined as one or more unrelated sex offenders living in a residential area. The bill would further authorize the sheriff’s office to license any groups of two or more sex offenders living together or in close proximity.
An example of one of these clusters is a small community outside Montgomery, where a group of about 10 men, having recently finished serving prison sentences for rape or other sex crimes, live in small trailers behind a church. Local media reports indicate many in the community have expressed unease at having so many in such a small area, though local the local sheriff reports he has never had a serious incident arise.
Said the bill’s co-sposnor, Rep. Paul Beckman, R-Pratville, families with small children have “no way of safeguarding or protecting” themselves.
But even the sheriff has indicated there has been no real threat. What’s more, one would think that an area with a large group of sex offenders in one central location would already be closely watched. There is also nothing to suggest that because they live in close proximity to others who have committed similar crimes that they are any more likely to re-offend than if they were to be even further isolated from the community.
As it stands, it’s already quite difficult for sex offenders to find a place to live once they have been released from prison.
While local authorities have said they were concerned because a number of the offenders weren’t from the area and had no ties to the community, it certainly makes sense that these individuals would not want to return to an area where they would be recognized and routinely ostracized or denied opportunity.
County sheriff’s offices are the entities responsible for tracking sex offenders under the Alabama Sex Offender Registration and Community Notification Act, per Alabama Code 13A-11-200. Failure to properly register or abide by the rules of the act can result in an offender facing an additional Class C felony charge, punishable by between 2 and 20 years behind bars.
The idea for the new legislation first arose a while back when two men came knocking on a woman’s door in short succession, looking for work. She said the men made her uncomfortable, and it was later revealed that both resided in the same sex offender “cluster.”
That prompted lawmakers to propose similar legislation two years ago, but it did not pass.
It’s worth noting that lawmakers have passed bills that apply only to Jefferson County and Birmingham, barring more than one unrelated sex offender from living in the same home.