A Cincinnati advocacy group for prisoners last week succeeded in defending a fundamental principle of American law: It's unconstitutional to increase the punishment for a crime after a person has already completed his or her sentence.
The Ohio Justice and Policy Center (OJPC) took up the cause of former sex offenders who were placed under residency restrictions — after they had already completed their sentences. It happened to thousands of Ohioans when the state started registering sex offenders, including banning them from living within 1,000 feet of a school.
Lane Mikaloff was convicted of raping a woman in 1987 when he was 18; after serving time in prison, he was paroled in 2002. The state passed residency restrictions several years later. Last week U.S. District Judge James Gwin found that applying the registration requirement retroactively to Mikaloff and others is unconstitutional.
David Singleton, executive director of OJPC, says the ruling vindicates what his organization has been saying for years now: Residency restrictions don't accomplish what they're supposed to do — protect children — and they result in a second punishment for former offenders who have already done their time.
"As an increasing number of law enforcement groups, prosecutors and victim rights advocates have recognized, residency restrictions are ineffective as child protection measures and actually make communities less safe by forcing sex offenders underground, where it is more difficult for law enforcement to monitor them," Singleton says.
The language of the ruling echoes that conclusion.
"(The law) only restricts a sex offender's place of sleep," Gwin wrote.
"It does not limit the offender's ability to occupy a residence in proximity to the school during school hours. It does not limit the offender's ability to go to any public park or drive on any street within 1,000 feet of a school. And it does not limit the offender's access to children in the offender's own neighborhood."
New School, Old Struggle
Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland was the highest muckety-muck at the Sept. 6 groundbreaking for the School for the Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA). But it was Maestro Erich Kunzel of the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra who led the campaign to build the facility. To celebrate the groundbreaking, Kunzel led the Pops in the orchestra's first-ever outdoor concert in Over-the-Rhine.
The new $72 million building, which will incorporate SCPA and Schiel Primary School, will be built in the block bordered by Elm, Race and 12th streets, fronting on Central Parkway. Cincinnati Public Schools hopes to open the new school during the 2009-2010 school year.
Administrative employees at Cincinnati State College are upset about small raises and expensive health-care premiums in the school's latest contract offer. Members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) held an informational picket Sept. 10. The goal was to enlist public pressure in support of the staff, according to Khalid Jalil, administrative organizer for SEIU.
"Management's proposal represents the lowest pay increase and the highest increase in health-care premiums for any bargaining unit at the college," he says.
The college has offered the union a 1.5 percent pay increase over three years, Jalil says. It also wants to increase to 8 percent the amount of health-care premiums paid by workers, he says. The union represents 128 administrative staffers in financial aid, shipping and receiving and other positions. The contract expired Sept. 4, but both sides agreed to an extension until the end of a fact-finding process.
For ongoing coverage of how Ohio deals with sex offenders and other issues, CityBeat's Porkopolis blog at blogs.citybeat.com/Porkopolis.
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