Penal Colonies?

Richardson has just passed an ordinance banning registered sex offenders from living on all but 2 percent of the city's real estate. Those convicted of molesting minors under 17 are now unable to live within 2,000 feet of schools, daycare centers or parks. The only other place in North Texas with such strict regulations is Farmers Branch, which, led by council member Tim O'Hare--you know, the one behind the immigration brouhaha and proposed regulations on flower pots in people's yards--passed a similar ordinance in August.

Meanwhile, Wise County Sheriff David Walker just published the names, pictures, offenses and addresses of all 85 convicted sex offenders living in the area, just in time for Halloween. And to ensure none of them use Snickers to lure unsuspecting kiddies into their lairs, the Sheriff's Department is holding a training session on Halloween night for the 25 to 30 of them currently on probation. One sex offender on the list told KTVT-Channel 11: "It makes me feel like I am on parade at all times. I am being walked out on stage. People look at you and talk about you all the time."

If that doesn't work, there's always the leper colony option.

The constitutionality of measures like those passed by Richardson and Farmers Branch has been questioned, and the state attorney general has been asked to issue a ruling on them. According to recent reporting in The Dallas Morning News, the perception that sex offenders are hopeless and will continue to reoffend is not necessarily true: At the root of the local ordinances is the belief that pedophilia is a disease with no cure--and that sex predators are destined to reoffend. But in a 2003 recidivism study, the U.S. Justice Department found that about 5 percent of all sex offenders released from prison were rearrested for another sex crime within three years. Three percent of all child sex offenders were arrested for another sex crime against a child in the same time period.

Richardson sex offender treatment counselor F. Liles Arnold said drug offenders and burglars reoffend at least as often as sex offenders. Because sex offenses are more devastating, he said, they get more attention. And while he agrees there's no cure, per se, for pedophilia, there is behavior management: He insists it's simply not true that "sex offenders will always be as dangerous as they ever were."--Megan Feldman

KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky