Open Government

ACLU Applauds Village of Alexandria Decision on Sex Offender Ordinance

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October 9, 2013

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ACLU Applauds Village of Alexandria Decision on Sex Offender Ordinance

Village Board Voted Down Proposed Ordinance after ACLU Indicated Potential Constitutional Concerns

LINCOLN - On Wednesday, October 9th, the Village of Alexandria rejected an ordinance that would have restricted sex offender residency beyond what Nebraska state law allows. The ACLU of Nebraska had previously informed the Village Board of the potential unconstitutionality of the proposed ordinance. Across the country, experts involved in the treatment of sex offenders, as well as victims’ rights groups have opposed sex offender residency laws as being ineffective and potentially harmful to public safety.

“By deciding not to move forward with an unconstitutional ordinance, the Village of Alexandria can now spend their resources on practices that will actually make the community safer,” said Becki Brenner, Executive Director for the ACLU of Nebraska. “This decision should encourage other communities to focus on programs that will actually reduce the likelihood of sex offenses, such as public education programs.”

“The state of Nebraska has set the parameters a municipality can use to restrict a sex offender. Many domestic violence and sexual assault organizations believe the safety of a community is best served by encouraging people to report sexual violence – not creating further restrictions on housing for an offender,” said Legal Director of the Nebraska ACLU, Amy Miller. In her initial letter to the Village Board in September, Miller indicated that the Village was free to pass an ordinance that complied with state law, but the proposal being considered by Alexandria went farther and raised legal questions.

Shortly after Iowa became the first state in the country to implement a sex offender residency statute, the Iowa County Attorneys Association issued a statement opposing that statute, pointing out that “there is no correlation between residency restrictions and reducing sex offenses against children or improving the safety of children.” Other groups have noted that laws like these perpetuate the myth that most child sex offenses are committed by strangers, when in fact the overwhelming majority are committed by relatives and people the child knows.


Can welfare rights be cut off just because you have more children?

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ArticleNebraska Appleseed filed a class action suit on behalf of disabled women who were on welfare. These women were not able to work due to their disabilities, yet the state argued that they weren't entitled to receive any more money for children born after the mothers went on welfare.  Appleseed's suit alleged the "welfare cap" violated equal protection and due process because children within the same family were being treated differently and because women who cannot work due to their disability were not capable of remedying the problem by obtaining employment. ACLU Nebraska and the ACLU Women's Rights Project filed an amicus brief, urging the court to find in favor of the disabled women. In 2004, the Nebraska Supreme Court agreed, and ordered the state to stop applying the cap.

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In 1994, a woman took her infant daughter to the hospital with a minor splash burn on her leg from hot water.

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The hospital reported the burn as suspicious, and the woman was questioned by police and a social worker. No legal action was taken against her. In 2001, the woman learned she was listed on the Child Abuse Registry for “Inconclusive” child abuse when she was turned down for a nursing job. The regulations allowed her to appeal this designation within the Department of Health and Human Services, but the DHHS denied the woman’s request for removal from the Registry. We filed an appeal in the District Court for Lancaster County. The Judge ruled for us, stating: “The failings of the pitiful record in this case go on and on. At best this record is non-existent. At worst, the series of events to which the plaintiff has been subjected exemplifies government at its worst. The executive branch may not have its way at all costs and without regards to the rights of the individual citizen to reason and fairness.” The woman’s name has been ordered off the registry.


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