Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Released Sex Offenders....Have They Done Their Time or Not?

It started several years ago with Megan's Law and the requirement of convicted sex offenders to register in the towns they were to live in upon their release from prison. Then, towns and the State decided to make public the names of those most severe offenders. Now, several NJ towns have enacted laws limiting where convicted sex offenders can live. One such town is Lower Township in Cape May County. Lower Township is considering an ordinance banning registered sex offenders from living or loitering within 2,500 feet of a school, park, playground, recreational area, day care center, or school bus stop.
On Monday night, one such offender, Steven Elwell, 34, spoke up. (Reported in The Press of Atlantic City, August 16, 2005). Four years ago, Mr. Elwell was sentenced to 3 years in prison for being a sex offender. He did his time, paid for his crime, and is now "free." Mr. Elwell, as his wife and 2 children stood by his side, addressed the township's governing body about the ordinance. "Where can I take my wife and two kids?" Elwell asked. "We've outgrown our house and I'm looking to move and there's no place to move." And Mr. Elwell fears more and more communities will adopt such ordinances.
Mr. Elwell received very little sympothy from the township officials and about 50 attendees at the hearing. "Maybe people should think about these things before they get involved in these crimes," said Councilman Mike Beck, a strong proponent of the ordinance. Mr. Elwell responded with, "I served a full year in state prison. I was stabbed and beaten. I don't think I need to serve for the rest of my life."
I do believe communities need to protect its children and citizens from sexual predators. But, are such ordinances such as the one being considered in Lower Township going a bit far? Let's face it. Mr. Elwell is right; if such an ordinance passes, he and his family will be forced out of Lower Township. It will be very hard to find a home that does not fall into one of the "forbidden" areas. Haven't individuals like Elwell served their time for the crime? Once released from prison, shouldn't that crime be behind them? As Mr. Elwell said, "If they're going to do this to sex offenders why not do it to everybody who's a criminal. What about people with drug charges?"
If these laws are challenged in court, and I am sure they will be eventually, it will be interesting to see what the courts decide. If sex offenders cannot be rehabilitated, which most experts believe is the case, then perhaps they should not be released from prison. But, once they are released, should their punishment continue?


Zelda Parker said...

Have you watched the Woodsman? It will certainly give you something to think about, empathy for those like Mr. E.

Karl said...

No, but I will make it a point to see it...........Thanks, Zelda.

Joe Tornatore said...

sex offenders should be a two strike program. I believe lifetime incarceration for repeat offenders is the only answer to protecting the public.

Medbh said...

I saw the Woodsman..good movie. I think the type of sex offense should be a determining factor. we do have a very unbalanced system in regards to sex offenders, though. maybe they could just live at the catholic church's rectories? it never seemed to bother the church that they had lots of pedophiles living amongst them. perhaps as a form of penance..they could open their doors and also initiate and fund research for new treatment programs for offenders.

Anonymous said...

Yes Mr Elwell was wrong going with a 16 yr old while he was in his 20's. But when I was 16 I certainly could decide if I wanted to be with an older man. I don't think she was completly innocent. He went to prison and is now married. Why waste tax payers money keeping tags on him. How about all of the habitual drunk drivers that eventually kill?

Lou said...

I have to say everyone on here ACTUALLY have a brain. There is a SERIOUS difference between the levels of sex offenders. In this case with the 16 y/o female and the 20 something man it's a joke. He served his time and if you go to the beach in the summer there are PLENTY of girls 16, 17 that are all over the lifeguards and you can not tell me this does not happen. I believe he did his time, has spent so many years at home after prison, and now has a wife and children. Let the guy live his life. Why waste the money watching him when we could be watching the guy who ACTUALLY PHYSICALLY RAPED a 12 y/o and is a huge risk.

Politicians only use sex offenders to get votes and that's it.