The following article is an opinion piece and reflects the views of only the author and not necessarily those of AllOnGeorgia.


The City of Ringgold in northwest Georgia has enacted an emergency ordinance to address sex offenders living under a bridge in the community.

The council adopted an “urban camping” ordinance Monday night which, according to The Times Free Press, bans “tents, “other temporary structures,” clothes, sleeping bags, cookware or luggage from public property.” The ordinance deals with homelessness generally, but is directed at those with criminal pasts.

Councilman Larry Black brought the idea forward after he learned that five men living under a bridge were sex offenders recently released from prison.”We have no way of knowing what that person is doing, as far as our safety concerns of our children, at 3, 4 o’clock in the morning, when we’re very vulnerable,” he’s quoted saying in the paper. A citizen was quoted voicing concerns over fishing safety near the bridge with the homeless using the restroom in such close proximity.

The new ordinance comes with a written warning to vacate within 24 hours and is then followed by tickets with $1,000 fines, 60 days in jail, and orders for community service.

Before we go any further, let’s first be clear that 99.9% of people who are homeless cannot afford to pay a $1,000 fine and many homeless people would prefer to spend a night in jail, especially as the winter months approach.

Now, to the merits of the ordinance….

The emergency ordinance was put in place to allow the council time to properly advertise and pass a more permanent ordinance. As an advocate for transparency and accountability in government, I can’t say that I’m a fan of this practice. Usually, emergency ordinances are reserved for natural disasters or extenuating circumstances of a manmade disaster. Five men under a bridge is neither an emergency nor a disaster, and it isn’t something that can’t wait 30 days to be done correctly. But there is more substance to discuss than the ‘how.’

Why are these men living under a bridge?

Arguably, it is because laws on the books restrict where sex offenders can live and a criminal background that can often be a hurdle for employment.

This is a conversation that partially reared its ugly head when reports of cities and counties requiring sex offenders to report to a secure location on Halloween came to light. “What to do” with sex offenders is understandably an emotional topic, and while there are a number of people who would love to see those who commit sexual offenses be locked away forever, our current system doesn’t allow for that. So as long as these offenders are being released into society, we have to discuss what to do with them.

Since 2008, state law has prohibited convicted sex offenders from working or living within 1,000 feet of a church, school, park, or other place where children gather. It doesn’t seem outrageous until you consider places like Catoosa County where only two apartment complexes meet the standard. In metro areas, more housing is available, but if you concentrate so many offenders to metro areas, you’ll eventually run into the same problem — not enough housing.

Whether you are talking about a metro area or a rural area, not enough housing will always lead to homelessness. Find me a community where there isn’t homelessness, while we’re on the topic.

So, back to the ordinance.

Do we want these convicts living under a bridge or do we want them gainfully employed somewhere and contributing to society? Do we want them focused on rebuilding and re-entering regular life or do we want them bored, living outdoors, and willing to do whatever it takes to survive? Is the end goal to eradicate sex offenders from a city, or county, or state as a whole? Does anyone think that’s financially or practically possible, short of literally rounding them up and taking them elsewhere?

When we are talking about issues as serious as this, we can’t talk in wide platitudes of what should happen in a perfect world or if you were ruling on the bench. We have to talk about practicality of what makes sense and what can actually be enforced. Does this ordinance meet that threshold?

And just like every other law, this one has unintended consequences.

The city is criminalizing homelessness. The wide net will capture those who aren’t sex offenders, or even convicts at all, and put them in a position to have a criminal background when they otherwise would not. With regard to the homeless who don’t have a criminal past — is the goal to tell them to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and get back on their feet as long as they do it somewhere else?

By criminalizing homelessness, those who are out on parole or probation will be reincarcerated if they are arrested. If that is the end goal, the City of Ringgold should just acknowledge that the method is simply to make an offender ‘someone else’s problem.’

Another thing to consider is whether or not something like this can hold up in court. The same ordinance passed in Grants Pass, Oregon as is working its way through the courts right now under constitutional right violations – specifically the 8th and 14th Amendments. In September, a federal court of appeals ruled that the Constitution forbids cities from prosecuting homeless persons for sleeping in public places when they have no alternative.

I won’t claim to know the proximity of this bridge in Ringgold to children and I won’t even claim to have all the answers. But I can assert that this type of ordinance is NOT the answer.  One of the men under the bridge has reportedly lived there for decades, without incident. Pretending to be ‘tough on crime,’ pro-children, and anti-sex offender when you’re really just ‘pro-cycle of poverty’ is disingenuous, especially when courts have already ruled on the matter.

The City of Ringgold doesn’t know what the answer is, either. As evidenced by those voicing concerns over the ability to track homeless sex offenders, the cleanliness of fishing sources, the dangers of cooking under a bridge, and any of the other reasons mustered to try to tip the scales of public opinion to fear, it appears that council members and the community in Ringgold may not even know the question.

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22 COMMENTS

  1. Good editorial! A welcome breath of sanity. However…. some questions.

    “Since 2008, state law has prohibited convicted sex offenders from working or living within 1,000 feet of a church, school, park, or other place where children gather. ”
    -> These restrictions have no, zero impact on the sexual abuse of children. How does this blatant banishment of individuals not on parole or probation NOT seem outrageous under any circumstances?

    “The wide net will capture those who aren’t sex offenders”.
    -> Are you implying it is acceptable to target those with convictions under the vast umbrella of sex crimes?

    “voicing concerns over the ability to track homeless sex offenders”
    -> Since this tracking is done solely in the interest of public safety – why is it not done for all criminal convicts? Is the government not interested in protecting me and my children from all sorts of crime?

    “Pretending to be ‘tough on crime,’ pro-children, and anti-sex offender when you’re really just ‘pro-cycle of poverty”
    -> Tough on crime and pro-children certainly are valid positions. Again, are you implying it is acceptable to be anti one select group of citizens with a certain criminal conviction? If so, why?

    Again, kudos on your (unpopular and brave) effort. Perhaps you could expand your analysis to a more fundamental level in a future submission.

  2. Jessica, you have written a nice piece on this topic, but you need to go a level deeper. I can help.
    1. There is no need to treat those who have been convicted of a sexual crime as lepers and isolate them from society; as a group, they have an extremely low re-offense rate, in the single digits, lower than any other category of crime except murder.
    2. There is not a single study or piece of scholarly writing that supports the use of distance restrictions as effective public safety strategy; it is shown to be just the opposite.
    3. Residency restrictions not only impact the ability to re-integrate and to be meaningfully employed, as you point out, but it also breaks up families, leaving children without a father in the home, which will then have an impact on the next generation and on the health of the society as a whole.
    4. Focusing on registered sexual offenders in conjunction to preventing sexual harm to children obscures the realities of child sexual abuse; the reality is that virtually all child sexual abuse is committed by those in the children’s lives, specifically their family members, peers, and authority figures.
    If you would like more information, please contact us or visit our website: http://www.narsol.org. Thank you

  3. Another thing is the effectiveness of residence restrictions on sexual recidivism. Despite popular opinion, recidivism among registered sex offenders is already lower than any other class of felon except murderers, and the overwhelming majority of that is parole, probation, or status offenses (applicable only to registrants). But that’s another discussion.

    There is absolutely nothing – no study, no research, no case – to show that residence restrictions reduce the (already low) recidivism of registered sex offenders. Even for those registrants that have committed another sex offense, the new offense has never had any relation whatsoever to the offense and would not have been prevented had the accused lived somewhere else.

    The truth is the registrant is LESS likely to assault your children than your non-registered friends, neighbors, and family members. If you’re not comfortable with a sex offender registrant in your neighborhood, move. You may have a right to feel safe at home, but that doesn’t mean society has to go to unreasonable lengths to ensure your sense of safety is maintained. And forcing people to live under a bridge, no matter what their background, is not a reasonable length by any definition. You have far more housing options than that registrant does.

    It wouldn’t kill anyone to stop being so f%&^ing paranoid about registrants either. Nearly all new sex crime is committed by first timers, i.e. not registered. Scrutinizing them so much accomplishes nothing in terms of prevention. Meanwhile, the new offenders take everyone by surprise. Maybe we should start thinking about what to watch for instead of who.

  4. The goal of the sex offender registry is to isolate and banish from society. It is called a “civil law” but has no civil outcomes. Apparently the courts only require a theory of protection when passing laws that supposedly protect the public. Even in the face of overt harm, the courts have ruled it is Constitutional because it might be rational. However, forcing a person to follow public safety laws that clearly are meant to take safety is illegal.

    I left the registry. It is an ex-post facto law that is only harmful to offenders. I don’t have to choose between my safety and/or security and following the law. Laws don’t work that way.

    UNTIL I get some DUE PROCESS, whereby dangerousness is determined in a court of law and restrictions are individually based, I REFUSE TO FOLLOW A REGISTRY LAW.

    The prohibition on ex-post facto laws was put into the Constitution in order to deny the State the ability to politicize the convicted. When a sentence is served, it is served and no State can pass laws against those convicted under theories of protection that only have the outcome of harm to those the laws target.

  5. I can tell you what to do with “$EX offenders”. Mind your own business. Quit thinking it is any of your business where people live or where they go. That will work wonders for everyone.

    If people don’t want “$EX offenders” to be around, all that has to be done is to destroy the $EX Offender Registries. Problem solved 100%.

    The criminal regime of Ringold will be sued for their ordinance. So that will be good.

    Here is a comment that I recently posted elsewhere:

    If the $EX Offender Registries ($ORs) actually did anything useful, perhaps we could consider if they are acceptable to Americans or not. But they don’t. Which even then, they wouldn’t necessarily be unacceptable. What makes them unacceptable is that the $ORs are not merely just worthless, they are much, much worse. They have gravely harmed America and it continues every day. They are also unacceptable because 100+ other national, public, lifetime Registries don’t exist. The $ORs have no credibility.

    It is a simple fact that the $ORs are insignificantly beneficial and that they are not needed at all. There are no people who are actually serious about public safety or protecting children who support the $ORs. None.

    If a person is actually going to protect him/herself and/or his/her family from $EX crimes then he/she simply must assume that every single person is actively committing $EX crimes. That is truly the only way to protect anyone. Many people have said that a person needs to know if a person next door is listed on an $OR or not so they can decide if the person can babysit or whatever. But those people are wrong. The simple fact is that the person next door will not be listed on an $OR and he/she could be 1,000 times more dangerous than anyone who is. Being listed or not is of no help or significance.

    Personally, I’m a male but I would not let any male watch my children until they were old enough, and I was confident enough, that my children could and would report any type of weirdness to me immediately. That is truly the only way to protect your children. I was only slightly less vigilant with females.

    The $ORs do not hinder anyone from committing a crime. In fact, the $ORs encourage and promote crime, including $EX crimes. There is more crime because the $ORs exist.

    Further, no serious person can support the $ORs without supporting 100+ other national, public, lifetime Registries. But no real American can support the $ORs or other Registries. The $ORs are a Nazi concept that is completely un-American. No American can support big government keeping lists of people that any of the thousands of governments throughout America can write special “laws” to apply only to “those people”, at any time that their tiny little brains get a whim and with no facts whatsoever.

    No American can support it. People who do deserve no rights.

  6. I can tell you first hand that the bridge that is being lived under is no where near anyone unless you go looking for the people camping you would not have a clue they was anyone living around… in my opinion unless they are committing a crime then they should have the right to do as they please

  7. The Federal Supreme court justices know very well that that the sex offender registry is prohibited by the constitution because it is ex post facto. And they know is illegal to pass an ex post facto law. But they are so evil they want to change the constitution to say what say what they want it to say , Rather than going by what the constitution really says. Sex crimes are tried in criminal court and punishment is rendered by the same, But the federal judges say that sex offences are a civil matter , and they reapply punishment on sex crimes that have already been paid. under. the false civil law , If the sex crime was under civil law it could not have been prosecuted in a criminal court. The Feds want their cake and eat it to.

  8. For anyone who wants to research recidivism for sex offenders in a comprehensive, rational manner, this link will provide you the gateway for the basis for finding a multitude of studies and statistics all from all over the spectrum. Spoiler alert: registered sex offenders are not a threat that justifies extra supervision of any type.

    http://www.oncefallen.com/Recidivism101.html

  9. I would not be surprised if this new ordinance was inspired by the events in Miami FL, where residency restriction laws forced registered citizens to live under the Julia Tuttle Causeway in Biscayne Bay. That camp started in 2007 with 5 men as well and eventually grew to over a hundred. Eventually, the camp was shuffled to other communities and the crisis in Miami exists to this day.

    http://www.oncefallen.com/juliatuttlecauseway.html

    Residency restriction laws simply do not work.

    http://www.oncefallen.com/residencylaws.html

  10. Thank you for speaking the truth.
    The reality is that the ordinance is like the President….ineffective, all bark, no bite.
    If this was me, I would have a field day in defiance as well as blantent disregard and disrespect for the authority of the ordinance.
    By being homeless, I have no job and thus no source of income so how does the town expect to get me to pay the $1,000 fine? The courts would have nothing to threaten me with.
    A stay in jail for 60 days plus the extra time for telling the officials to go screw themselves over my not paying their fine would also cost the city more than what they could ever get out of me….especially in the free room and board they would have to provide for me as well as seeing to my medical needs.
    As for community service, I don’t work for free so go ahead and add more time in jail living in the tax payers dime.
    These registries have resulted in bigger headaches than fixes.
    If you dont believe me, look up the Gordon and Cano case.
    In California, Gordon and Cano shocked the unintelligent by murdering 6 prostitutes while being monitored by GPS.
    The families were outraged while asking “How could this have happened?”
    George “I don’t have a Brain and I Hate Children” Runner who authored California’s version of Jessica’s Flaw…I mean Law also could not understand how is flawless legislature failed to stop these 6 murders from happening.
    It wasn’t hard.
    All GPS monitoring does is shows where you are. It does not show what you are doing.
    If I was on the worthless registry I could easily get away with stuff Im not allowed to do.
    For example, Registrants are not allowed to possess porn or hire a prostitute. Regardless of GPS I could still buy a movie and watch in my room or living room, borrow a device or purchase one that I don’t disclose and use again in my room or living room or have a sex worker come to my residence and no one will be the wiser since we were in my home.
    Anyways, Gordon and Cano murdered 6 sex workers while monitored and the reason why they got caught was because they found the body of one.
    Thanks to forensics they identified when she died and where and using the registry found two individuals in the area of the sex worker at the time of death.
    So as you can see, the registry does not prevent crime but instead can help solve crime.

    • No doubt that “residency restrictions” are complete and total horsesh*t and no one with any sense who is ACTUALLY serious about public safety or protecting children even thinks about supporting them. Same with the BS Registries as well.

      And certainly no real American can think “residency restrictions” are acceptable.

      I did want to briefly address just a couple of things that you said however that might mislead people.

      You said, “Registrants are not allowed to possess porn or hire a prostitute.” The vast majority of Registrants are not on probation or parole so they can possess and/or use any amount of porn that they like. The majority. The “hire a prostitute” part … is that not illegal for everyone?! Regardless, Registrants have no special laws regarding prostitution.

      People like to dream that the Registries do something, anything to keep Registrants “in check” but that is simply not true at all. Registrants do whatever they like, including being around children, completely anonymously, all the time. That is reality.

      Lastly, you said, “the registry does not prevent crime but instead can help solve crime.” Clearly the Registries do not help even slightly hinder crimes but it would also be an extremely rare case if the Registries ever helped solve a crime. I’ve never heard of one. In the case that you are talking about, I expect the GPS monitoring did that. The Registries did nothing. Further, nearly all child assault is done by someone that the child already knows. You don’t need a Registry to identify those people. For the “random” crimes, do you not think that the Registries are a great reminder to never commit a crime near where the criminal is Registered? The Registries are a good reminder to go elsewhere.

      Good, effective law enforcement (LE) agencies know that the Registries are counterproductive stupidity so they NEVER start investigations by using the Registries. Never. They follow facts. If they get stuck or the clueless public is whining about it, they might check the Registries just to placate them. But good LE knows that is a waste and diversion of limited resources that should instead be focused on solving the actual crime. The Registries are nothing but a pain in the rear that gets in their way.

      • Of course the registry didnt help at all. The masses were dumbfounded on how the registry failed to prevent these 6 deaths. It did help solve the disappearances/deaths but only because they found the body of one of the victims. Without the body there would have been more missing persons.
        You dont need to tell me about children are more at risk from someone they know rather than “stranger danger” because I am informed on the reality of sex offenders.
        But the reality is with media, sensationalism sells and the focus and repeat on the news cycle of the rare stranger danger assault case has the masses convinced it happens more often than it really does.
        During Gordon’s trial he called out the truth of how worthless the registry is and how LE knows it.
        The only ones in denial are the politicians who are that retarded or are trying to pad their resume with something to show they are “tough” on crime when being tough creates defiance.

      • I’ve seen LE claim the registry is a “good tool” and a handful claim they’d have had nowhere to begin a particular investigation without it. But the status of an arrestee as a registered sex offender is never known until after arrest. Pretty hard to claim they’d never have known they arrested a registrant without the registry – criminal records are always retrieved at booking. There is NOTHING on the registry that isn’t available on state and federal criminal records.

        LE only “uses” the registry solely to harass registrants, mostly under the guise of “compliance checks.” When new crimes occur, they like to hassle all the registrants in the nearby area when they have no other leads or just to appear proactive until the crime is forgotten by all but the victim(s).

        Bottom line, Gordon is right. The registry is absolutely worthless. Its only purpose is to justify bloated budgets and budget requests. That’s why dead and incarcerated people are still on them, and why some states refuse to remove anyone under any circumstance. The idea that it’s needed or used for public safety is purely farcical – how is a dead, incarcerated, or registrant who has left the area/state a threat to your county/community?

    • I agree with everything you say and the ideas you are expressing here. I just have one question: What if you are in a state that has post-confinement community supervision where you have an assigned parole officer and are required to take a polygraph every 6 months for the express purpose of ferreting out violations of the terms of your supervision?

  11. Excellent and timely piece. As a real estate agent that works with sex offenders, I have been learning the ugly truth about where sex offenders can’t live. The city of Columbus, Georgia, among many others, is nearly 86% non-compliant. Try finding a property that isn’t within 1,000 feet of a church in the south. Good luck.

    The sex offender registry is the newest driver of homelessness, couple that with large rental properties stating on their applications that they will not rent to sex offenders (violation of the Fair Housing Act) gives a person little option other than living under a bridge. We also are seeing the carpetbaggers come out in droves and renting air mattresses for exorbitant prices to this desperate population. Authorities are unaware because no one will turn the landlords in for code violations because they will become homeless.

    Major employers will quickly rescind any offer to a felon, but when it’s a sex offense it is even more difficult to find gainful employment. To top it of the sex offender review board takes fewer than 15 minutes to review hundreds of cases and level them. I will happily point you to more facts on this subject.

    As a victim of an attempted rape as a young women I am sensitive to this subject, but as a logical thinking person I realize the registry adds to desperate behaviors, making it more likely someone will reoffend. It’s time to support groups like NARSOL and educate the public. Thanks Jessica.

    • Good to hear that there are decent people who do not support the $EX Offender Registries ($ORs). No real American can.

      Sorry to hear that you were a victim of an attempted assault. I was victimized many times as a child. I was not damaged for life. Nor do I seek to forever harm the people who did it.

      There are no legitimate excuses to have $ORs and not a hundred other Registries. That alone is complete proof that the $ORs are not really for public safety, protecting children, or any of the other lies. The $ORs are for harassment, exactly such as that you have pointed out.

      The landlords that are violating the Fair Housing Act need to be sued. Perhaps you could publish the names here?

      Additionally, I would love to hear anything that you have to say about Georgia’s dipsh*t review board. The work they do is nothing more than polishing a piece of excrement. They can’t fix or improve anything.

      Lastly, I would encourage any good American to avoid calling people “$EX offenders”. That phrase is inaccurate and a weapon of war. The people who are listed on the $ORs are nothing more than people who are listed on a Nanny Big Government hit list. That’s it. It is accurate to refer to them as “Registered People”.

      Peace to you. If I ever have any real estate needs in Columbus, I will certainly seek you out.

    • Wow, Kate!! I wish I could hug you right now. I am a member of the TN chapter of NARSOL. If you want to hear a weekly podcast that deal specifically with the hardships the registry creates for registered citizens then navigate to
      https://www.registrymatters.co and listen to the weekly “Registry Matters” podcast. You will find it informative.

      I am so very and sincerely sorry that someone tried to rape you. I can’t even begin to process the kind of fear and pain you experienced in that moment and afterward.

      You made a good point with your comment. If people would really dig in and research this for themselves, they’d see what a monstrosity the registry actually is. The sad fact one must realize is that there is such a selfish attitude that pervades our society like a pernicious malignancy: “As long as I have what I need and want for me and mine and feel safe and comfortable, the rest of you can hang for all I care!”

  12. I read your statement in this article, ”We have no way of knowing what that person is doing, as far as our safety concerns of our children…” If this is such a concern for you Councilman Larry Black, then why don’t you find a way to house these people, not ban them from the streets!

  13. Open letter to the Council Members of the City of Ringgold:
    Dear Mayor and Council Members,
    As you sit down with your families to enjoy your Thanksgiving meal in your warm houses with the tables set with your finest crystal and the table full of wonderful, nourishing food please give a thought to the 5 homeless men you needlessly and heartlessly caused further hardship and damage to in the mistaken name of public safety. Congratulate yourselves on a job well done. Where is our humanity? As the temperatures in Georgia drop this week and these men, already forced into homelessness due to our outrageous laws, are told that they must leave the only shelter that they have managed to find? Even living under a bridge is not harsh enough? These men have served their sentences and pose no risk to the public and yet THIS is how they are treated. I am ashamed of this council.
    Laurie Jones
    GEORGIA RESIDENT

    • Address that letter to every single council member and send it to them directly. Better yet, go to the next council meeting and take it to them there. Read it in front of the whole council. I agree with what you said and somebody needs to take the fight to their front doorsteps.

  14. Soon might come the day when we realize this folly is all about the emotional strings of politics and power. Keep them afraid and anxious and they will be more inclined to vote for “the rescuer.” Shame on us for still not growing up. Candid and forthright conversations about the intelligence or impact of a sex offender registry or any public behavior registry is an adult conversation that too many of us are still not ready for. Why not also have a registry that lets me know that the people next door to my daughter in her complex have a son who served time for breaking into apartments? These absurd and reactionary policies were deemed unsustainable when first conceived. Still they were (are) pursued simply because we play along in predictably reactionary ways. When systematic corrections is designed to really work, it will focus on correcting and curing addictive and deviant behavior and discreet tracking for efficacy, not political exploitation. Some day…

  15. Roland, what you said is very profound and I applaud you for it. The sad reality is that we are living in a society where everyone is afraid of their own stinkin’ shadow and this frightened generation is raising a generation that will be even more frightened. What has our society degenerated to when parents who simply let their child go to the playground up the block or let their kid walk to the store a couple of blocks up the road get turned in and prosecuted for child endangerment? Kids have to have some freedom to learn how to cope with living in the real world and yet there are those who want to shelter children from every hardship and anything that might be the least bit scary at first. That’s the same thing as cutting a butterfly out of the cocoon!! They deny the butterfly the very struggle it needs to properly expand and fully develop their wings so they can fly. We’re cutting our kids out of their cocoons and the end result is emotionally crippled children who can’t cope with the slightest of hardships!!!

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