Jacob Sullum

Georgia's law also prevents Mann from working at the barbecue restaurant he co-owns since it's within 1,000 feet of a daycare center established after the business was opened. Because Mann did not present enough evidence of economic harm, the Georgia Supreme Court did not overturn the work restrictions, which have been challenged in federal court as well.

Constitutional issues aside, closing off employment opportunities for sex offenders, who already are handicapped by criminal records, is not exactly conducive to rehabilitation. Nor is forcing them to cluster in the boondocks, far from employers and treatment programs, or encouraging them to go underground.

In Iowa, which bars sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of schools or daycare centers, police and prosecutors have concluded that such residence restrictions do not prevent recidivism since people can readily travel beyond their immediate neighborhoods, and that they discourage registration. After Iowa's law took effect, the number of sex offenders whose whereabouts were unknown more than doubled.

Last year, the chief sponsor of Iowa's law, state Sen. Jerry Behn (R-Boone), conceded that he may have gotten a bit carried away. "If you draw a map, pretty soon you can make it so no area in town is available to live in," he told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "It would have been better if we had put it at 1,000 feet."

But who can be bothered to look at a map when there's important grandstanding to be done? "The bottom line," Behn explained, "is it's all about protecting children." Or seeming to.

Jacob Sullum

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine and a contributing columnist on Townhall.com.
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