By Steven Yoder | January 3, 2020
In May 2016, a local Fox station in Wisconsin reported a remarkable story. That March, a man who had served 11 years on second-degree child sexual assault had been released from prison. The city of Waukesha had a rule forbidding those convicted of a sex crime against someone under age 18 from living within 1,500 feet of schools, parks, and other places where children congregate. His mother and brothers all lived inside those banned zones, so he couldn’t live with them.
With nowhere to go and homeless shelters refusing help, the day after his release he intentionally stood next to a school to get rearrested. That landed him back in prison for two years. “I just couldn’t go on with no place to go,” he told the station. (According to state records, after getting out in 2018, he’s now back in prison on another probation violation.) The Appeal contacted the state Department of Corrections to speak with him but, citing a “rigorous process” for making prisoners available for interviews, the agency didn’t respond before publication.
The latest available research shows that 32 states and many municipalities, including dozens in Wisconsin, have rules like Waukesha’s that make big swaths of housing off limits to people with sex crime records. Those policies might sound like common sense, but a 2017 report from the U.S. Department of Justice concluded that there’s “no empirical support for the effectiveness of residence restrictions.” Reformers and experts have tried for years to convince legislators that restrictions are bad policy, given the research andinvestigations linking them to higher rates of homelessness.
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