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Ban on Sex Offenders from Nursing Homes Unconstitutional

8-6-2011 Massachusetts:

The Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”) issues a narrow, yet potentially sweeping ruling on Friday. In John Doe v. Police Commissioner of Boston, the SJC found that a registered sex offender, regardless of level, cannot be summarily denied the ability to live in a nursing home without an individual finding that he poses some danger.

The ruling took aim at a law enacted in 2006 that barred all Level 3 offenders from going to a “long-term care facility.” The law infringed on an individual’s constitutionally protected right to travel and freedom to choose where they live. This law was particularly pernicious in that it took aim at a particularly powerless, infirm, and likely indigent population. For someone who required the assistance of a long-term facility, there are no alternatives.

The law also seems to try and protect from a perceived danger that is no danger at all. There is no single scientific study or piece of evidence that shows sex offenders of any kind pose any different or heightened risk in a long-term care facility. Indeed, the plaintiff in this case, John Doe, had been living at this facility prior to, and during, the duration of this lawsuit. He was very ill and never posed a risk or danger to anyone. At the time of the decision, the Court noted his health had deteriorated significantly. Had he been unable to live at the facility, one wonders where he could have gone.

While the case technically applies to just this one plaintiff, its language seems to sweep much more broadly. It likely spells the end for municipal laws prohibiting sex offenders from living in their towns. It may even curtail the use of residency restrictions (i.e. prohibiting persons from living within a certain distance from schools), at least not unless there is an individual finding that such a restriction is necessary. ..Source.. by Eric Tennen

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