Certain sex offenders in Montana that are employed in close proximity to children must obtain special permission, face arrest or find a new job. Last week a state law took effect which prohibits sex offenders deemed high risk, who have victimized children, from working or living within 300 ft of an institution or facility serving young adults under 18 years of age.

Compliance checks carried out by law enforcement officials will factor in the new regulation. To ensure that sex offenders are reporting their location. However it has left some officials confused, compounded by lack of direction, as to calculating distances between sex offenders and those under the age of eighteen.

The County Sheriff’s office commented that they couldn’t determine the new regulation with a yardstick. In the first ten years of the millennium over a dozen states have brought in restrictions on sex offenders. Others have followed suit within the past few years. A handful of laws has been overturned by the courts. Missouri and Kentucky ruled retrospective provisions criminalized residencies unconstitutionally i.e. that were within the law when sex offenders were in residence there.

The new restrictions Montana has enacted is not applicable to residency prior to the law (May 5th). The statute is reminiscent of a revised plan for a regulation (California) known as Jessica’s law. On March 2nd The California Supreme Court passed a ruling that the blanket ban from restricting residency to 2,000ft of schools was too ambitious. There was an increase in homelessness and revisions are likely to restrict the boundary to paedophiles only. Sexually violent predators and/or high risk numbered 137 within Montana (as at 14th May). The restriction will only apply to those who victimized a child under 12.

Those that are against the restrictions point to a link of isolation and recidivism and does more to affect offenders than protect children. Convictions and fines in Montana for breach of the new regulations is potentially up to a $50,000 fine or 10 years behind bars. The responsibility largely falls on the sex offenders themselves.

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