Thursday, June 01, 2006

Defending Carl & Melina's Law

Just weeks after the city-county council passed its new law barring sex offenders from coming near Indianapolis' parks, the Indiana Civil Liberties Union filed suit in federal district court challenging the constitutionality of the new ordinance, which should come as a surprise to no one. The grounds for challenging the ordinance are very strong. As the ICLU's Ken Falk points out, it has the effect of banishing sex offenders from Marion County. The Star's Richard Walton explains:

Ken Falk, the ACLU of Indiana's legal director, said the city ordinance effectively restores the long-discarded, punitive practice of "banishment," because it is virtually impossible to travel the streets and highways of Marion County without passing within 1,000 feet of a public playground or other prohibited site.

Drive on I-65 and you pass the Velodrome and a skate park, Falk said. "You can't get from point A to point B in Indianapolis without being in violation."

The suit gives anonymous examples of former offenders who would be hurt by the ordinance. There's the man who received counseling and was awarded joint custody of his son, now 7 years old. The pair frequently visits parks and other recreational centers. Because the man is employed at a place within 1,000 feet of a park, he would breach the ordinance by going to work, the suit says.

Another man votes at a public school within range of a sports field. Because he is not eligible to cast an absentee ballot, the new restrictions would keep him from voting, the suit says. Falk said that even the ordinance's exemption -- lifting the restrictions if the former offender is accompanied by an adult with no record of sex crimes -- is problematic.

Falk said the term "accompanied" is not defined in the ordinance. "If you're within five feet, if you're within 10 feet, if you go with someone and they have to go to the bathroom, do you have to go to the bathroom with them?" he asked.

Well, there you have it. Carl Brizzi and Melina Kennedy got their press releases, and the taxpayers get stuck with a big legal bill to defend an indefensible ordinance in the courts. And not one child will be saved from being a victim.


Anonymous said...

Gary Welsh - On the side of molestors, rapists and exploiters...

Advance Indiana said...

Just on the side of protecting an individual's constitutional rights anonymous. Sorry you don't believe in the Bill of Rights.

Anonymous said...

I dont think it's fair to say "gary is on the side of exploiters..." I think AI does good work. I do disagree though, with AI on this one, though... ICLU is just wrong here to worry about their "clients" needing to go to parks.

Anonymous said...

Gary, here's a vote for the ICLU position. I say this as the father of a teen-age daughter and God forbid that anything bad should come to her or any other person.

Ideally, the courts would find criminals to be guilty. Ideally, the courts would impose penalties as they see fit based on the facts. Sometimes, courts fail.

Life is full of risk, as we have learned this week with the tragedy of the Taylor University students and the seven Eastside family murders. Protecting all of us from the bad people is the job of law enforcement. Sometimes, law enforcement's net fails to trap the bad people.

Proposals like this matter amount to piling on -- and breaching the civil rights of people already judged to be criminals. The practical problems of this proposal have been clearly stated by Ken Falk and the ICLU.

Sad to say, in America the bad guys still have civil rights. Disagreeable as that is, it's the price we pay for freedom. Otherwise, the good guys would suffer the tyranical injustices for which the Revolution was fought. At some point, adults have to recognize that life is full of risks. We cannot be protected from all of them. We just have to accept them.

Anonymous said...

Gary's concluding point is right on the mark: After the City of Indianapolis pays for attorneys to defend the ordinance, and then pays ICLU's fees after the ordinance is overturned as unconstitutional, then rewrites the ordinance, etc., the taxpayers will have shelled out a quarter million dollars or more, just so prosecutor candidates can claim to be protecting our children by passing a toothless, illegal and redundant ordinance. In Marion County, I guess we do have publicly financed campaigns after all.