Sex offender restrictive laws need to be local, not statewide

Trust me. I know. Having worked on current sex offender legislation when I was employed in the state Senate.I know.

Residents all across our great state state care deeply about protecting innocent children children. That’s true especially in Franklin that historically originated the crusading fight to safeguard our most precious  commodity with successful ordinances that were copied by well over 100 other municipalities across Wisconsin., all in the name of their children.

We are informed by local media that there will be an effort to take away  local control of sex offenders and instead create a statewide law  controlling where sex offenders can live and congregate as opposed to leaving this responsibility in the hands of local authorities who know what’s best for their communities.

Here in Franklin and all across the state local municipalities have enacted local laws that have effectively protected kids from sex offenders. Local police departments have kept records ( I have them for Franklin) that demonstrate to local media how efficient these laws have been, if they’ll even bother to examine. Obviously not from what I’m about to blog.

In a cover story Sunday by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel the paper tried to build a case against local sex offender ordinances. They searched and found a single sex offender to garner sympathy around.  They claim to have data that torpedoes local efforts to combat deadly sex offenders.

That the state’s largest newspaper would take a stance in support of criminals is not surprising.

Here are excerpts from Sunday’s front page story beginning with sympathetic tones for a sex offender.

(Artrell Jones) hadn’t done anything to violate the terms of his sentence, which stemmed from groping a 13-year-old girl he met online when he was 19. In fact, Jones had stayed out of trouble since his conviction in 2002.

The notice alerted Jones that a new Milwaukee ordinance had gone into effect, severely restricting where sex offenders can live. Jones’ home was too close to a school.

So, for the past year, Jones, 35, has bounced from house to house, moving every couple of days. He relies on family and friends for refuge, periodically popping into homeless shelters when nobody has a room.

It’s an arrangement, he said, that can’t last forever.


In the two years since Milwaukee leaders enacted the residency ordinance as a way to push sex offenders out of the city, little has gone as planned.

Rather than reducing the number of sex offenders, the ordinance has put more than 200 of them in the street and failed to keep new offenders from moving into the city, a Journal Sentinel analysis has found.

The ordinance bans many sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of areas where children are commonly found, such as schools, parks and day care centers. In Milwaukee, that means hundreds of sex offenders are limited to 117 possible housing units. And even those 117 units might not be available to rent or buy.


(Alderman Tony)  Zielinski said the ordinance has protected residents and stopped some sex offenders from moving into local communities. However, he could not provide specific examples to support his view.

Zielinski also accused the Wisconsin Department of Corrections of “fudging the numbers” of homeless Milwaukee offenders. Likewise, he didn’t provide evidence to prove the allegation, saying only that the department has been slow to provide him with accurate data in the past.

“I’d have to check those numbers, but I know we have prevented a number of serious sex offenders from moving to Milwaukee,” Zielinski said. “The only thing I can tell you for sure is that Milwaukee did the right thing. Otherwise, we would have continued to be a dumping ground for state sex offenders.”


For years, state Rep. Joel Kleefisch (R-Oconomowoc) has sought to enact a statewide law regulating sex offender residency. And for years, Kleefisch said, he’s run up against resistance in the Legislature. A bill he proposed in the 2015-’16 session failed to get a vote.

The issue, Kleefisch said, is that local municipalities have lobbied on two fronts: to keep their ability to regulate sex offenders, and to uphold the general principle of local control instead of statewide mandates.

But as Milwaukee County’s homeless offender population rises, and as other counties grapple with similar skirmishes, state lawmakers are taking note, Kleefisch said.

Kleefisch said he’s never been more optimistic that a statewide law will pass, noting he’s had “extremely positive contact with the attorney general and governor.”

“I think you’re going to see it happen this next session. It will be a high priority,” Kleefisch said.

So now it looks like the state will try to interfere with successful local ordinances that restrict sex offenders. A similar legislative proposal died late last year. While the bill authored by state Representative Joel Kleefisch  was being considered  by a state Assembly Committee in Madison during a public hearing,  the city of Franklin voiced opposition. Mayor Steve Olson couldn’t attend the hearing that day, but submitted the following letter to be included as part of the committee’s record:

September 8, 2015

Representative Rob Hutton
Members of the Assembly Committee on Corrections
Room 220 North
State Capitol
Madison, WI 53708

Re: AB290

Dear Rep. Hutton and Honorable Committee Members:

The City of Franklin has been at the forefront of protecting its’ youngest citizens from sex offenders. We were the first city in the state to enact thoughtful and fair residency
restrictions on convicted sex offenders in 2007. Our ordinance (attached) has been used by a large number of communities throughout the state as the model for their own ordinances.

Franklin crafted our ordinance to protect our children from the threat of sex offenders. We held four public hearings and debated at length the protection zones as well as the distances we felt we needed to protect our children given our community make up and geography. We did our research and we balanced our efforts to protect our children with the rights of sex offenders. We felt it important to be responsible and have areas available to accommodate sex offenders.

We were also the first community to prosecute (and defend) our ordinance. Our ordinance and several others across the state have been held to be enforceable and constitutional. AB290 invalidates our local control, our local wisdom and our local efforts to protect our children.

The statute proposal that you are now taking comment on is a direct assault on the home rule of the very communities that you represent. Provisions in this proposed bill replace the wisdom and knowledge of local community leaders and replace it with a blanket, unreasoned distance limit that will prove to disadvantage the vast majority of communities and in effect, make placement of sex offenders more difficult and put more children at risk.

The fundamental assumption and flaw of this proposed bill is that communities have banned sex offenders. That assumption is factually incorrect in the vast majority of instances.

I ask you to remember that most communities’ ordinances are in an effort to protect our children from the risk, a tragic and dangerous risk that a sex offender may act. Is the State really the best to judge, in a blanket, over reaching manner what areas a child may be at risk?

I ask that you reject this proposal.

Even though the proposal defines 1,000′ from schools and day cares, many communities effectively will be excluded because of their geography or quantity of schools and their offenders will be placed in someone else’s community. This distance is not workable as a blanket requirement.

Franklin believes that local ordinances are the best way to protect our children. Should the legislature feel the need to impose their will, there are much better opportunities to avoid those communities who have banished sex offenders. Consultation with municipal leaders who have devoted time to the issue could be a valuable resource.

I’d be happy to work with any legislator who would like to propose a bill that would
require every community to accommodate their sex offenders and not push them off to others. There is a solution but sadly, AB290 is not the answer.

Attached for your reference is a copy of Franklin ordinance 167 defining restrictions for the residency of sex offenders. I draw your attention to 167-5 (Original Domicile Exemption) as justification to NOT enact the proposed statute. Also attached is a map of the city of Franklin showing the tremendous adverse impact of this bill.

I respectfully ask that you reject AB-290.


Stephen R Olson
–September 8, 2015

The same arguments hold true today.

One thought on “Sex offender restrictive laws need to be local, not statewide

  1. Pingback: My Most Popular Blogs (08/29/16) | This Just In… From Franklin, WI

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