Which 11 N.J. cities have the most sex offenders and why?
Posted March 17, 2018 at 06:38 AM | Updated March 17, 2018 at 08:04 AM
By Rebecca Everett | For NJ.com
It’s clear from the New Jersey Sex Offender Internet Registry that sex offenders are living in every corner of New Jersey.
All high-risk and most moderate-risk offenders are listed online — 4,397 as of Wednesday — but there are thousands more deemed less likely to reoffend who don’t have their names listed.
Some cities have higher rates of sex offenders, according to state data, even when controlling for size. Looking at communities with at least 50,000 residents, the 11 municipalities with the highest rates of sex offenders are home to 40 percent of the state’s listed sex offenders.
So why do more sex offenders end up in certain places and not others?
Inside the courtyard at Northern State Prison in Newark. (Jon Naso | Star-Ledger file photo)
Experts weigh in
NJ Advance Media put the question to two experts in the field: Jackson Tay Bosley, who developed sex offender treatment programs for the state, and attorney Fletcher Duddy, who manages the state Office of the Public Defender’s Megan’s Law Unit.
Both hypothesized that the legal requirements, living restrictions and notoriety that come with being a tier 2 or 3 sex offender can channel people to certain cities.
Those issues make sex offenders more likely to be homeless and thus find themselves living in halfway houses or other temporary housing, Duddy said, and some communities have more of that housing than others.
Living with the label
It starts with sex offenders having trouble getting jobs because they have been convicted of felonies and show up in the online registry, Bosley said.
“They have to find relatively inexpensive places to live,” Bosley said in a phone interview. “It’s a hit to their economic viability that they have this label. They earned it.”
Bosley said landlords in lower-end places often can’t afford to turn sex offenders away, so registrants are more likely to settle there.
But many landlords won’t rent to offenders who appear in the online registry, Duddy said. “This then results in homelessness, which then results in the offender being shuffled off to a halfway house by his parole officer,” he said, because being homeless would be a violation of parole.
Parole for life
Almost all defendants convicted of sex crimes in New Jersey are subject to parole supervision for life. Duddy said residency restrictions set by their parole officer can cause homelessness and thus channel offenders to halfway houses.
“For example, a parole officer may impose a ban on the offender living with children — even if the offender’s underlying sexual offense was not against a child, and even, sadly, if it means the offender cannot reside with his own children,” he said.
The location of sex offenders treatment programs could also channel offenders to certain cities, Bosley said. Offenders must get counseling, at least temporarily, as a condition of their parole. Those who can’t afford private treatment have to go to one of the state-sponsored programs Bosley set up for indigent parolees in cities around New Jersey.
People often worry about having sex offenders in the community, but they are less likely to reoffend if they are living a stable life and not worrying about basic needs like housing, Bosley said.
“If we push them out and make them on the fringe of society, they end up posing more of a risk to all of us,” he said. “There is no place to exclude sex offenders to.”
A 2005 study on sex offender recidivism in New Jersey parolees found that within the four- to seven-year period after release, 14 percent of sex offenders committed a new sexual offense and 24 percent committed a nonsexual offense.
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