Supreme court right on state sex offender list

Michigan’s sex offender law brings out many strong emotions in people, as well it should. All crimes are bad, but sex crimes are particularly disturbing. However, how they’re dealt with following due process can be controversial.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday let stand a decision that found the state of Michigan treated people as “moral lepers” by burdening them with excessive restrictions.

Thirteen months ago, a federal appeals court struck down many retroactive rules as unconstitutional. The state had appealed that decision, which the Supreme Court turned down.

The Michigan State Police maintains a Sex Offender Registry to keep residents updated on nearby offenders. People may search for offenders in their area and register for email alerts.

We believe people have the right to know if a dangerous convicted pedophile, lives just a few doors down from them. But what if an offender was convicted of a lesser sex offense and wants to reform?

Michigan lawmakers in 2006 changed the law to prohibit registrants from living, working or loitering within 1,000 feet of a school. In 2011, the Legislature said registrants should be divided into three tiers based only on the type of conviction, not an individual assessment. The rules were retroactive.

The appeals court said Michigan presented no evidence that residential restrictions were having positive effects. It also said that requiring registrants check in with police, in person, is not connected “at all” with public safety.

Even the American Civil Liberties Union has problems with sex offender laws. The ACLU of New Jersey said banishment zone ordinances impede offender rehabilitation and increase the likelihood of them offending again.

The laws, it said, likely force offenders to move from environments with support networks to communities where they have no support. It also said people labeled as sex offenders may deal with job loss or even death threats.

Instead, the ACLU supports focusing resources on policies and programs that reduce the likelihood of sex offenses happening in the first place.

State Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was one of the sponsors of legislation that implemented the tiered system for reporting. He told The Associated Press that the registry represents what most Michiganders want: to protect children from sex offenders.

That’s a noble goal. However, laws should keep people safe and at the same time be rooted in fact — and allow for people to be rehabilitated.