Monday, March 23, 2009
U.S. District Judge Gary Lancaster has voided an Allegheny County ordinance that would have restricted where registered sex offenders may live in the county once they've served their sentences. The ordinance was passed unanimously by County Council in October 2007 and was intended to ban sex offenders from living within a half mile of schools, licensed child care facilities, community centers and public parks. The American Civil Liberties Union challenged the ordinance in court saying it amounted to after-the-fact punishment and that offenders would have virtually no place to live in the county. Judge Lancaster's ruling says the ordinance conflicts with state laws meant to help rehabilitate sex offenders and reintegrate them into society. County Councilman Vince Gastgeb, the prime sponsor of the ordinance, says he's somewhat surprised by the judge's ruling because the legislation was well researched with 6 months of meetings and hearings. Gastgeb says numerous local jurisdictions have been allowed to have residency requirements and that council "watered down" his bill to address any possible legal challenges. Gastgeb says he wants to meet with Chief Executive Dan Onorato and the county solicitor before the county decides whether to appeal.