We Don't Ban Them from Toy Stores

The easiest political target in the world is sex offenders; a politician can only gain support by attacking them. Thus Cincinnati City Councilman David Pepper, candidate for mayor, wants everyone

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Matt Borgerding

A law barring sex offenders from living near schools is ineffective, according to David Singleton.

The easiest political target in the world is sex offenders; a politician can only gain support by attacking them. Thus Cincinnati City Councilman David Pepper, candidate for mayor, wants everyone to know he supports the city's move to enforce housing restrictions on convicted sex offenders. Ohio law forbids registered sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school.

City staffers have identified 90 persons who are allegedly violating the rule. Getting them moved is "critical to our city's safety," Pepper says. "The city must make protecting our children a top priority."

Pepper, chair of council's Law and Public Safety Committee, offers no evidence that the 90 people in question have harmed any children since the completion of their jail terms. In fact, he misuses the term "sexual predators" — the law also applies to people whose offenses had nothing to do with kids. But evidence isn't important in scoring political points. No one is going to call for less rigorous laws against sex offenders.

One group that has studied the issue, however, argues that the housing restrictions are ineffective and unconstitutional. Citing a study from the Minnesota Department of Corrections, the Prison Reform Advocacy Center (PRAC) is calling on the Ohio Legislature to repeal the housing restriction. The report explains that moving sex offenders away from schools doesn't prevent the offenders from going to such places. In fact, most offenders travel to areas in which they aren't known in order to commit crimes.

PRAC, based in Cincinnati, filed a class action lawsuit in April to challenge the constitutionality of the law.

"This is a bad law that does nothing to protect children but makes it very difficult for sex offenders to find a place to live, which makes it harder for them to become productive members of the community," says David Singleton, executive director of PRAC. "This is particularly true in densely populated urban communities with a lot of schools. Our clients are effectively banished from the community and from their families without any assessment of whether they actually pose a risk to children."

The Minnesota study, "Level Three Sex Offenders Residential Placement Issues," is available at http://www.doc.state.mn.us/publications/socdpublications.htm.

Some Convictions Are Wrong, Some Worth Defending
William Mayo of Cincinnati is about to get his best chance yet to overturn what many observers have called a false conviction. Convicted in 1992 in Cobb County, Ga., of aggravated burglary, he's serving two life prison sentences. Studying psychology and criminal justice at Morehouse College at the time of his arrest, he had no prior criminal record (see "Justice Denied," issue of March 19-25, 2003).

On June 10, Mayo will have a hearing on his writ of habeas corpus. His lawyer argues that prosecutors were aware of witnesses committing perjury, allowed them to use false names and failed to disclose immunity agreements. Two witnesses against Mayo later signed affidavits that they'd perjured themselves under pressure from the prosecutor to avoid sentences for the very crime Mayo was charged with.

Bolstering Mayo's argument is a ruling by the Georgia Supreme Court involving the same prosecutor. The court overturned the life sentence of a man because the prosecutor had failed to tell jurors about an immunity deal for witnesses. For more information on the Mayo case, visit http://www.freemayo.com.

The Greater Cincinnati Log Cabin Republicans recently sent five activists to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's Power Summit in Long Beach, Calif. The Power Summit involves four days of training in activism and campaigning to examine the lessons learned from past victories and defeats and develop new leaders in the fight for equality. The training centered on a strategy of direct voter contact known as voter identification, according to Ted Jackson, president of the local Log Cabin chapter. Voter identification was key to the defeat of Cincinnati's Article 12 in 2004, he says.

"I am always reminded that voter identification is essentially making a human connection, and that is why it will be the deciding strategy in our fight for equality," Jackson says. "The real power of this weekend is in the 11 activists from Ohio who made a commitment to keep contacting voters and challenging the stereotypes about gay people."

At the Power Summit the Cincinnati team joined others from Cleveland, Columbus and Toledo to form an 11-member Ohio team. Building on the 2004 grassroots success in Cincinnati, continuing to training new activists and developing political relationships are high priorities for Log Cabin in Cincinnati, Jackson says. The Cincinnati Power Summit team will reach out at the 2005 Pride Alive festival June 11-12 and work to identify new supporters in Republican strongholds in southern Ohio, he says.

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