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Opening Arguments


"Banishment" is generally thought of as an inappropriate punishment from our less-enlightened past, but that doesn't mean it isn't being tried here and there:

Though Georgia's judges are technically outlawed from banishing offenders, some have skirted the rule by restricting them from all but one of the state's 159 counties. Now, one convict is challenging the practice, claiming it is unconstitutional.

"It's a throwback to the dark ages," McNeill Stokes, the defense attorney who argued the case Monday, said in an interview. "The whole point behind this is zealous prosecutors wanting to get rid of problems in their counties."

State attorneys contend the orders are a way to rid criminals from populous areas and protect victims from repeat offenses. But some defense attorneys see them as thinly disguised efforts to evade a Georgia constitutional provision that explicitly forbids courts from "banishment beyond the limits of the state."

If you think about it,  provisions for convicted sex offenders can amount to banishment, at least of a limited nature. If people can't live within so many feet of schools and certain other places, and a city has evolved so that there is no place to live and still meet the requirements, the offender has little choice but to leave town.

I have no sympathy for sex offenders, but it still bothers me that we seem to be so willing to put people on an untouchables list for life; this goes against our tradition of "once you've paid for your crime, you get a chance to start over." Most sex-offense registries, including Indiana's, don't bother to differentiate between serial pedophiles who truly represent an ongoing danger and, say, someone who might have been convicted of statutory rape for sleeping with his 15-year-old girlfriend when he was 18.


Wed, 01/09/2008 - 10:16am

>>Most sex-offense registries, including Indiana

Leo Morris
Wed, 01/09/2008 - 11:03am

You're right -- my mistake. The change was made in 2006. The more serious offenders, in addition to lifetime membership, also have more restrictions on their movements than the less-serious offenders.