Patch was provided with copies of some of the testimony delivered Tuesday at a state house public hearing on a proposed Senate bill that would ban sex offenders from senior centers and senior housing. In attendance was a delegation of Montville officials who joined state Sen. Cathy Osten to voice their support for the measure. It’s the hope the second time’s a charm; the first go-round the proposal didn’t make it far beyond committee.
And while Montville was able to pass its own version first in October and then a corrected version in December, before it could make it on to the books,
Mayor Ronald McDaniel told the Aging Committee that “in a town with its fair share of litigation,” and one that believes in the law, he was holding out hopes that the state would make the first move: “Please consider this measure for passage.” He testified that since the January Center (the residential sex offender facility housed at Corrigan-Radgowski) opened, some residents have shared their concerns about safety.
“They’re worried about (sex offenders) …walking he streets, visiting stores, visiting the senior center …going to senior housing, going (to) our schools,” he said.
The proposed legislation is SB 517, An Act Concerning Senior Safety Zones., would prohibit registered sex offenders from entering a senior center or senior housing unless there to visit a relative with the approval of a parole/probation officer or the chief of police or resident state trooper.
McDaniel was joined by former mayor and soon-to-be-sworn Town Councilor Joe Jaskiewicz, Town Councilor Billy Caron, Senior and Social Services director Kathleen Doherty-Peck and, invited by now former state senator Edith Prague – an original bill sponsor and support – Town Councilor Rosetta Jones who voted against the zones in Montville and spearheaded the petition drive to see the law repealed.
Jaskiewicz told the committee the zones are needed because “seniors are vulnerable. “
“We are vulnerable. I am one of them,” he said.
And Caron testified that he was not worried that seniors would be “attacked at the senior center,” rather that “predators will go to the senior center to get the information on where seniors are going, where seniors live.”
Jones, who has long maintained her opposition to the zones rest in her concern about possible litigation from the ACLU, said that if the state passed the law instead of a municipality, it would be the state’s responsibility to defend its law in court.
“In your wisdom, at the state level …for all 169 cities and towns you pass this …that would add a measure of assurance against local litigation.”
She also argued that banning offenders could further drive them underground, just where “we don’t want them.”
“These are the people you want to keep in public, to watch. You don’t want to be driving them under the radar,” she said. Like they say, keep your enemies close. We want to make sure we’re tracking these individuals.”
Doherty-Peck said that while the senior enter has not been the location of an attack on seniors, the population is vulnerable. She said there were many cases of senior citizens elsewhere being targeted and offered that the situation should be addressed before something occurs.
Meanwhile, the executive director of the Connecticut affiliate of the ACLU, Andrew Schneider, had his own testimony to deliver.
“We have every reason to protect the elderly from abuse but no reason to pass this bill,” Schneider’s testimony read. “It’s not necessary, it wouldn’t work and it would violate the rights of former offenders and their families. The bill would invest a single individual -- a police chief or resident trooper -- with the power to separate elderly parents from their children without oversight and without due process of the law. It would interfere with the reintegration of former offenders into society, to the detriment of the former offender and to society. Its unintended consequences would hurt everyone, including the elderly.”
Schneider maintains there’s “no evidence that the elderly are particularly targeted for sex attacks.” He said that, in fact, “some elderly people are registered sex offenders themselves. “ And Schneider said “requiring police to monitor these locations for former offenders who aren’t causing trouble would waste police resources and invite discriminatory policing.”
“Giving police chiefs and resident troopers discretion on whether to waive the restrictions would allow them to deprive a person of basic rights, essentially imposing an unconstitutional form of banishment, for any reason or no reason at all. This would violate due process and the foundational American principle of the rule of law, which invests power in established laws and procedures and not in any individual’s arbitrary discretion.
“For these reasons and others, the town of Montville recently repealed an ordinance establishing senior safety zones. I respectfully ask the committee to follow that example and oppose this bill.”