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ACLU Looks to Challenge Town on Senior Safety Zones

The executive director of the Connecticut affiliate of the ACLU calls the new ordinance "unconstitutional."

 

The executive director of the Connecticut affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union did not hesitate; the ACLU is prepared to take the town to court to fight what it calls the unconstitutionality of the newly passed Senior Safety Zone ordinance. It just needs a client.

“We would encourage people from the area that would be (targeted) under this clearly unconstitutional law to talk to us. This is an (ordinance) we would challenge,” said Andrew Schneider, executive director of the Connecticut ACLU.

“This  (ordinance) is unconstitutional punishment. You’re punishing people that have paid for their crimes.”

Schneider rejects the ordinances’ stated purpose, that the “Town has a compelling interest in protecting seniors from the threat of sexual abuse from sex offenders.”

“Where’s the motivation coming from? I’m not aware of any onslaught of attacks against the elderly by sex offenders. I’m not aware of one. The sociological evidence out there, the research, indicates that there just isn’t the high rates of recidivism people believe there is,” he said.   

And he said the law violates citizen’s fundamental rights.

“What happens if the sex offenders are seniors themselves? That’s another reason this law is so flawed,” Schneider said.

When the attorney that drafted the ordinance for the town was asked if the law could stand up to a civil liberties challenge he told the council he thought it could.

Eileen Duggan, attorney for the town and Suisman Shapiro director, had no comment for the story.

What the ordinance says

“It shall be unlawful for a Sex Offender to be present in a Senior Safety Zone,” which includes essentially any location where one might find senior citizens – persons age 60 or older, per this new town law -- including “any park, senior center, senior bus, elderly community, elderly housing, elderly event, elderly function, or other like facility, wherein seniors congregate...” It does not include public streets or sidewalks. But pretty much everywhere else within the town one might find a gathering of seniors is fair game.

“It’s basically banishment,” Schneider said.

The new law, which will take effect Jan. 11, 2013, explains that a sex offender who wants to visit an elderly family member must get permission from a parole officer or the mayor (who is technically the chief of police).

“The chief of police or your mayor decides if a sex offender can visit a relative in senior housing. This could break up families …keep families from each other,” Schneider said.

Additionally, a sex offender that has a job that would require him to come in contact with seniors at say, the senior center, or a delivery person delivering packages to any senior housing, both must leave immediately after conducting their business.

“This whole thing runs afoul of basic constitutional principles,” Schneider said.

Sex Offenders in Montville

There are 46 registered sex offenders in Montville according to the state registry. Twenty-five are housed in the facility located at Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Center in Uncasville, 19 live in the community at large and two are out-of-compliance (see separate story). 

Two views on Senior Safety Zones

Town Councilor Rosetta Jones, a 22-year veteran of the state department of corrections where she served as a prison warden voted against the ordinance but not because she isn’t law and order, or because she doesn’t want seniors to be safe, she said. Indeed, she herself, under the definition in the ordinance, is a senior. Her concern was two-fold; she argued the law is at once ineffectual – she suggested self-defense training for seniors would be a better choice, or even a whistle -- and opens the town to lawsuits.

“The intent is one of good will,” she said. But it’s a “litigation magnet.”

And perhaps the most outspoken opponent has been McFee who cautioned the council before its vote last week:  “If we end up being sued,” he said pointing to councilors in favor of the ordinance, “You’ll be remembered for this, for doing this. That will be your legacy.”

But with the majority votes from the Town Council in favor and support from Senior Center president Sandy Stauffer, Sen. Edith Prague, countless seniors and Senior and Social Service director Kathleen “Kathie” Doherty-Peck, the law will soon be on the town books.

jane December 14, 2012 at 11:39 AM
The lawyer knows he is wrong. It is not constitutional, but boy oh boy would he love to make money defending it. Montville, stop this now. Get rid of this illegal, unconstitutional ordinance before you go through thousands of our tax dollars.
Dana McFee December 14, 2012 at 11:45 AM
I can see our town's attorney law firm licking their chops over this!! , national exposure by taking on the ACLU and making a boat load of money from the montville tax payers. We can thank Billy Caron for this one!!! Along with councilors Tanner, Murphy, Longton , and Buebendorf.
Jason cratzs December 14, 2012 at 12:48 PM
They councilors who supported this need to tender their resignation by days end. They were warned and laughed in our faces. Shame on u. Who is taking out a petition to stop the democrats stupidity?
Heather Holmes December 14, 2012 at 01:01 PM
This really boils my blood. When you are told what you're doing is wrong and illeagle and then do it anyways is just arrogance and stupidity. No elected official ,I don't care what party you are with should make bad decisions when it's pointed out for you that it's bad. Shame on those who voted for this and I agree they should resign ASAP
John Holmes December 14, 2012 at 01:03 PM
Stop bashing the democrats you fools voted for them now live with it and open up your pocket books. It's going to be an expensive year.
Donna Jacobson December 14, 2012 at 01:49 PM
Again, why the Senior Safety Zones should be repealed: http://montville-ct.patch.com/blog_posts/xxx-45d4795b
Michael Bakowski December 14, 2012 at 04:38 PM
The absurdity level has hit an all time high. Don't we have a big safety complex building opening? I would rather spend money on giving people in our town jobs to patrol places and spend extra to put up security cameras that can be monitored from the safety complex. Does it cost us? Yes but, this is not a place I want my community to pinch pennies to look after our children, parents, and grandparents or you can let lawyers waste our money and at the end everyone loses. OH....maybe we can have someone patrol the massage parlor a 1/4 mile away from the safety complex. It's not that far of a drive.
Johnny Thumbs December 14, 2012 at 10:49 PM
Is the ego of these 4 democrats so big that they voted to put the town in the path of a very large and costly leagle battle? Sadly the answer is yes. This ordinance does nothing to keep seniors safe. There are already laws that say you can not sexually assault anyone regardless of age and if you do you go to jail for a long time. So how is a $99 unenforxeable fine going to stop it. This is the dumbest ordinance I gave ever seen passed. I can't believe they did not heed the advise of the day and the ACLU when told not to pass this. I say we make those who voted for it pay for the upcoming lawsuit
Ellen Hillman December 15, 2012 at 03:02 AM
I understand the need to protect our seniors but as I have said in the past the only place you can do this is at the senior center not anywhere else. The council went to far on this ordinance. They had a legal one that I had written all ready in the prior attorneys hands and chose to ignore it for their own personal gain. Sad so so sad.
wldbil December 15, 2012 at 04:35 AM
Someone thought it would be a good idea to protect the elderly seniors and it was be nice to do so. But at what expense.. The seniors of the most part can take care of them self. I grant you some need help. The state have laws that not really protect the seniors but to arrest those who violate these laws. When a person has intent to harm another person he dose so. That person dose not care about the laws. So where dose it leave the seniors? Still unprotected. So the town ordinance is in affective. Lets abandon the nice intentions, save some money and tell the ACLU to take a hike. Amen. God save us and a Merry Christmas. PS::: Remember the six home show tickets and the ethic’s committee. That cost the taxpayer $13,104 for lawyer fees. Yours, a Senior
REVMAN March 07, 2013 at 05:43 PM
Dana someone should point that alot of us seniors are military veterans and know how to take care of ourselves,family,friends,and neighbors against them as far as self-defence I think all seniors should do what our Vice President told us to do buy a double barreled shot gun.

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