When a proposition or ballot initiative is voted upon and approved or disapproved by an overwhelming number, the people have spoken and the result should stand. Not in California, where Proposition 83 – also known as Jessica’s Law, which was named for 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford from Homosassa Springs, Fla., who was abducted, raped and murdered in 2005 – was ruled potentially unconstitutional by a judge just a day after it was approved by more than 70 percent of voters.
The newly approved proposition “is punitive by design and effect,” said the judge who blocked the measure’s enforcement. This is because the measure requires that sex offenders not live within 2,000 feet of a park or school. Those who filed the lawsuit against this ballot measure believe that it would be re-punishing those who have already paid for their crimes.
However, Lunsford’s father Mark doesn’t see it that way.
“If that means making these people move, then that’s just the way it is,” he said to the Tampa Tribune, supporting a similar measure that the Tampa City Council wants to pass. He went out to California to stump for Proposition 83 and also supports the similar – but stricter measure – by the Council. The Council wants to put a measure into effect that would not allow sexual predators and offenders to live within 2,500 feet of day care centers, schools and parks, which goes beyond the state law of 2,000 feet.
It seems that more thought should have been put into Proposition 83 before it was put on the ballot. If it was unconstitutional, that should have been realized long before it was put to the vote. When given the choice to protect their children from such a heinous crime, voters will choose to protect their children, even if the particulars of the measure seem a little extreme.
The desire to protect children from sex crimes should no doubt be a top priority – and it seems that it is, with Florida and California trying to craft measures restricting where registered sex offenders can live.
But this need to protect children should also be balanced against the need to track – as well as provide treatment to – these sex offenders. Law enforcement must know where they are at all times – a worry with these measures is that it may discourage offenders from reporting their addresses. But even worse than a sex offender’s proximity to children is not knowing where the offenders are.