Georgia panel nixes bill to bar sex offenders from living near victims

Georgia’s Capitol
Georgia’s Capitol

A bill that would make it a crime for registered sex offenders to live close to their victims failed in committee Monday after a party-line vote.

Senate Bill 35, proposed by state Sen. Lester Jackson, D-Savannah, would prohibit registered sex offenders from owning or leasing homes within 2,000 feet of the homes of their victims or their victims' immediate family.

Jackson said the legislation was inspired by a woman in Savannah who was surprised to find out her rapist lived near her home, and she was afraid to go for walks in her neighborhood because he would watch her from his porch.

The bill would have required registered sex offenders to notify their supervision officer if they wanted to move, and the officer would make sure their new residence was not too close to their victims or victims’ family.

If a sex offender lived too close to a victim, he or she would be charged with a felony and could spend 10 to 30 years in prison.

Several Republican senators on the Judiciary Committee said they were concerned the penalty was too harsh.

"I wonder if this penalty is harsher than the punishment for the original sex crime they committed," said state Sen. Bill Cowsert, R-Athens.

Under current law, registered sex offenders cannot live within 1,000 feet of churches, schools or day care facilities, but the law says nothing about them living near their victims.