Thursday, February 25, 2016

TX: Gatesville Residents Push For Sex Offender Residency Restrictions


Four people spoke out at the Gatesville City Council meeting Tuesday to urge council members to consider passing an ordinance that would restrict where child sex offenders can live. 

GATESVILLE – Four people spoke out at the Gatesville City Council meeting Tuesday to urge council members to consider passing an ordinance that would restrict where child sex offenders can live.

According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, the state's sex offender registration program itself does not restrict sex offenders from living near children or going near places with kids. Instead, a mixture of city ordinances, community supervision restrictions and parole laws govern where convicted child sex offenders may reside. In accordance with the guidelines set by the Texas Government Code, child sex offenders who are released on parole are typically prevented from going within 500 feet of schools, daycares, public swimming pools and arcades while they are on community supervision or parole restrictions.

But, once any parole or community supervision restrictions expire, child sex offenders may live wherever they choose, unless a local community ordinance or some other law prevents them from doing so. Amber Wilson and a group of Gatesville residents pressed city leaders to adopt an ordinance that would do that by creating "child safety zones."

"They shouldn't be allowed to the kids' football games. Anything directed towards children is where I would like to see a child safety zone,” Wilson said.

In essence, she asked city council to create a law, under which convicted child sex offenders would need to permanently steer clear of places where children congregate—rather than only stay away from children for a set number of years.

"The frustration is that it's gone on for so long,” Kim Dewald, who also spoke at the meeting, said. “Why hasn't it been brought to attention and had action taken sooner?”
Gatesville City Manager Bill Parry said a majority of city council believes passing an ordinance to restrict sex offenders is a solution without a problem. He cited Gatesville’s relatively low number of registered sex offenders: 26, only one or two of whom are child sex offenders currently on community supervision.

"We want to do this in a very thoughtful way, which is: if there is a problem, we want to identify what the problem is and again the issues of earlier this year would not have been addressed by an ordinance or something along those lines,” Parry said.

council members also expressed concern Tuesday that establishing a local ordinance could lead to a costly lawsuit for restricting the rights of the offenders.
The lawsuit argument has precedent. Following pressure from the nonprofit organization Texas Voices for Reason and Justice, more than 20 Texas towns recently eased similar ordinances governing where sex offenders could reside. And, the nonprofit group has already sued more than a dozen towns over such legislation.

But, Wilson and her counterparts who support and 
ordinance argue fear of a lawsuit should not prevent Gatesville from adopting legislation to protect children. In the last five years, Hewitt and Woodway were among a handful of local municipalities to pass sex offender ordinances.

"I was just in complete disbelief how after all these years, how do we have nothing? Nothing for our kids,” Wilson said.

The recent conversation in Gatesville was spurred by the arrest of Chet Shelton, in connection with the January homicide of Kai Lamar. Shelton is charged with aggravated sexual assault in connection with the toddler’s death. The type of local ordinance being described would not have applied to Shelton, since he was never required to register as a sex offender.

For frequently asked questions about the state's sex offender registry program, click here.

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"When an American says that he loves his country, he means not only that he loves the New England hills, the prairies glistening in the sun, the wide and rising plains, the great mountains, and the sea. He means that he loves an inner air, an inner light in which freedom lives and in which a man can draw the breath of self-respect."
~Adlia Stevenson U.S. Vice President (1893–1897) and Congressman (1879–1881)

On a Personal Note

Thanks for the opportunity to express my thoughts regarding the issue of citizens’ rights, particularly addressing certain sex offenders’ crimes that do not fit the devastating, inequitable and endless punishment given.

As you know, many young men and women lives across the nation are being destroyed by incarceration, life-time registry and restrictive laws that do more harm than good. For those individuals, there is no second chance.

Below is a personal letter to President Obama:
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“Dear President Obama,

I truly agree with your sentiments that individuals, such as ex-felons, should be able to receive a second chance at life. Since we all know that one can veer off that path of life and travel along rough, rocky terrain, sometimes running off and ending up in some ditch. We all have made our fill of mistakes and sometimes those held a costly consequence that changed life forever. So we lived through it, trying harder to make things right with family, friends and those around us, but what about those who aren’t able to make things right even if they tried…because they’re labeled as too dirty, a leper, a person who is rejected from society and home.

But what if they’re a seventeen year old and had sex with a fifteen year old, consensual at that? Or they’re a teen that had gotten so enraged after a breakup that he sent out naked pictures of his girlfriend on his cell phone or email? Or an individual urinates where someone just happens to see them?

All are wrong and a travesty but do they deserve the life of no second chance with a registry that ends all. They are labeled, no jobs, no where to live…they have been deemed a menace to society, a plague. These certain circumstances, and many other situations similar to these, I believe still deserve a second change.

Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

After my son’s early release and two years of prison, I thought I had handled that fact graciously knowing after serving his time he would be able to get that fresh start, that second chance. He was an exemplary inmate, GED, college courses and vocational classes. Little did I know that a second chance on the outside was the farthest from the truth? He now struggles and lives in a trailer park sharing a trailer with another and surrounded by others in the same rocking boat, one to float endlessly in shark infested waters. I see him little because of probation requirements (he couldn’t live with us because we were 800 feet near a school). My family is afraid of what would happen to them if he lived with them…vigilantism. My son has no other place to stay since others condemn him of his crime that is screamed from the highest rooftop. Sex offender, sex offender!

Not all sex offenders are pedophiles or predators but some are simply young kids that make one stupid and rash decision that eventually changes everything, and they have no idea what they’ve done until their life is never their own. Exactly, where is that second chance for those sex-offenders who are lumped together with pedophiles and predators? Now, it makes me sick to think of my son’s future and many like him that are on the registry and many with no second chance…ever. I am asking you as a mother and as another concerned citizen of the United States that these laws are looked at again and taken into serious consideration in what they are doing to the Constitution of the United States, not for sex offenders in general but the future rights of every citizen, before anymore are put into effect. They unjustly strip an offender of their rights and place them in a guillotine that can be easily set off by anyone and at anytime. Where is the second chance for ex-sex offenders in the present, pending and future laws?”
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What truly saddens me is the weakness and deterioration of what the sex offense issue is doing to our once, great nation. Across Europe, others are seeing the injustice and disregard of rights, but we ignore this problem and it makes me wonder where humanity is heading….

We have become a hysterical society in which our latest witch-hunt is a sex offender--no matter his/her crime.

Below is a email sent from a foreign advocate to a father of a sex offender:
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“The tragic story of your son's death is just so sad that it's difficult to explain how. It was very hard to read your letters. It seems almost unbelievable that this can take place in a democracy! From our point of view, there is no justice in this. Not in any way: not for you, your son, the former girl friend – or even the state.

It is an abusive legal system. It seems barbaric. And we are so very sorry that this takes place. That's why it's so important for us to try to neutralize the debate with this…, hopefully making some changes. ….. to show the every day life of the sex offenders, trying to show how they keep on being punished, even after served prison time…..But we will for sure tell the story of the injustice that your son has been exposed to.”
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I appreciate everyone's commitment and backing to protect everyone's civil rights, plainly as noted in the Constitution of the United States and is presupposed, giving ALL men are “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.”