ATLANTA , GEORGIA, August 14, 2006 – Attorneys from the Southern Center for Human Rights (SCHR) and the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia have filed another challenge to HB 1059, Georgia’s sex offender legislation passed in 2006 by the General Assembly. Today, attorneys have asked the Court for a Temporary Restraining Order to stop the Bulloch County Sheriff from illegally evicting people from their homes for living too close to a school bus stop.
The School Board of Bulloch County, Georgia voted last Thursday evening to designate approximately 1,700 bus stops throughout the county. Prior to the school board meeting, in anticipation of such a decision, Bulloch County Sheriff Lynn M. Anderson sent written notice to all registered sex offenders informing them that bus stops would be designated on August 10 and that the bus stop provision would be subsequently enforced. This enforcement will mean the immediate forced eviction or arrest of at least 30 people on the sex offender registry in Bulloch County.
One person facing eviction is Paul Stewart, an elderly man with severe heart problems that have resulted in 15 heart attacks. Mr. Stewart struggles with numerous other medical issues and his health will be dramatically compromised if he is forced from his home as a result of the enforcement of the school bus stop provision of HB 1059.
Bulloch County is the second county in Georgia to officially designate the school bus stops. Last month, Columbia County designated bus stops and began enforcing the law, but U. S. District Judge Clarence Cooper issued an order banning Columbia County deputies from enforcing the law.
“As the Court found in issuing its initial TRO, forcing sex offenders from their homes could harm public safety by making offenders harder to monitor,” states Sarah Geraghty, lead counsel from SCHR. “The balance of interests and public policy considerations weigh heavily in favor of granting a TRO to prevent plaintiffs from becoming homeless while the constitutionality of HB 1059 is being considered.”
Testimony from law enforcement, treatment providers, and the state's own expert at a July 11 hearing established that residency restrictions such as the 1000 foot bus stop restriction makes the public less safe by destabilizing people on the registry and forcing them underground. There is nothing within HB 1059 that provides for exceptions to forcible displacement of people who are elderly or infirmed or who were convicted as teenagers for having consensual sex with other teenagers.
HB 1059 does not require school boards to designate bus stops. “Local School Boards should table any vote on bus stops until the General Assembly meets again and has the chance to fix HB 1059’s problems.” states Lisa Kung, Director of SCHR. “If school boards pass resolutions designating school bus stops like Columbia and Bulloch counties did, we will take them to court because their actions result in families being evicted from their homes. The evictions are unnecessary and unconstitutional.”