ATLANTA , GEORGIA, October 12, 2006 – HB 1059, Georgia’s sex offender legislation passed in 2006 by the General Assembly is facing another challenge today in U.S. District Court. Lawyers from the Southern Center for Human Rights (SCHR) and the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia have filed a Motion for Preliminary Injunction on behalf of nine elderly and/or severely disabled people on the registry. Unless the Court grants an injunction, they will be evicted from their homes, nursing homes, and hospice care facilities with no place to go other then the local jails.
This injunction specifically addresses the provision of HB 1059 that prevents people on the registry from living within 1,000 feet of a church. Because of their advanced age and/or physical condition, these plaintiffs are not a danger to anyone, yet the residency restrictions of HB 1059 make no exception for them.
“Forcing a terminally ill man with less than six months to live out of his hospice care facility because he resides within 1,000 feet of a church is utterly irrational,” states Sarah Geraghty, an attorney at SCHR representing the plaintiffs. “A civilized society does not turn elderly and severely disabled people out on the street or force them to jail for conduct that was punished long ago.”
All of the plaintiffs seeking immediate injunctive relief from the Court reside within 1,000 feet of a church in violation of HB 1059. The plaintiffs include the following:
Out of respect for the family members who are coping with grave illness of a loved one, the names of these nine plaintiffs are being withheld.
These potential evictions have financial ramifications for not only the Plaintiffs, but for counties and the state itself. The only source of income for John Doe II and several other plaintiffs is their Social Security check from the federal government. If any of the Does are transferred to jails or prisons due to lack of available housing – a very real possibility absent an injunction – the county (in the case of a jail) or the state (in the case of a prison) will be saddled with tens of thousands of dollars in medical and housing bills. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the annual cost of incarcerating people over the age of 50 is approximately $70,000 per year.
“Arresting someone who is already locked in secured nursing units with 24-hour supervision, who poses no threat to society, is yet more evidence that this legislation was poorly conceived and badly written,” continues Geraghty. “As an election year stunt for an easy win, the Georgia Legislature passed a badly written sex offender law. They need to return to the drafting table and fix the mess that was made.”