The Musings of

Something full of magic, religion, bullsh*t.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

10 minutes with : Covenants not to molest

The local NPR affiliate had a quick story on a developer in the Lubbock area who is developing a "no sex offenders" community. According to the report, the houses will sell with a covenant that forbids sexual predators from living on the premises. Evidently, the developer will also perform background checks on all the buyers.

I must admit, I'm of two minds about this, and both of them could care less if convicted sex offenders can find a nice place to live. The property rights part of me has a real problem with restrictions on alienability of land. If you own it, you should be able with it as you wish. Of course, by limiting the potential buyers' pool in this instance, the owners are actually driving up demand from those left, thereby increasing alienability. The freedom to contract side of me believes that you have the right to restrict your ability to take a future action if you want in order to get a concession you desire. Here the contract between neighbors is for a mutually beneficial action -- not letting in perverts (well, convicted perverts). Obviously, this would be a problem if perverts were a protected class, but they really haven't had much luck getting that legislation pushed through.

Letting my little mind wander, I wonder if this action would be possible on a larger scale -- say a town. Clearly, we are now wandering into constitutional territory, if only because enforcement of such a rule would have to rely not on an actual contract, but on the social contract therefore necessitating state action for enforcement.

A quick Google search, and I discover I'm certainly not the first one to think of this idea. It turns out that last month a New Jersey town took the unprecedented step of banning sex offenders from its borders. The ban is not express, it restricts convicted pedophiles from living within 2,500 feet of a school, playground, park, or day-care center. This half-mile buffer makes it all but impossible for a pedophile to find a residence in the town. To handle any takings issues, the town grandfathered in the current 46 sex offenders living in the buffer zone.

Interestingly, there is an argument to be made that these buffer zones, especially if done statewide, might actually lead to more problems because it makes it more difficult for pedophiles to re-enter society after serving their time.

I can also think of an inequity argument (this is, of course, a sign of the apocalypse). I would argue that only well-off neighborhoods/communities will have the knowledge and backgrounds to establish a no-pedophile zone. As such, sex offenders will be forced to move to less-affluent neighborhood/communities.

Although the ACLU is whining concerning the New Jersey case, I have not seen any compelling evidence that they have a constitutional claim against the town. My guess is that, barring judicial action, more communities will begin banishing their sex offenders (in direct proportion to the amount of child abductions on the TV).

The real question is who will be next on the banishment list. I vote for anyone who spends more on car accessories than they spent on their car. But I'm flexible . . .
Centinel 6:13 PM #


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