When Harold Dwayne English got out of prison in Oklahoma, he moved back in with his mother in the city of Edmond. His niece lives next door.
The problem was that 14 years earlier, he had molested his niece, then 7 years old — and been sent to prison for it.
So, his arrival back on the block was quite a shock to the young woman.
“He’s right there,” she told a local TV station. “And not only does it scare me for my well-being now, but it brings back a lot of things that happened in the past.”
But, legally, English had done nothing wrong this time. There is no law against a sex offender moving in next door to a previous victim, not in Oklahoma, nor in 45 other states, including Idaho and Washington.
There are various laws about how far they must live from schools, churches, day cares, parks and similar facilities where children are present. There’s a reason there are not many laws preventing this.
“In all the years that I’ve been involved with the criminal justice system, I’ve never seen a case like this,” Richard Barajas, a retired Texas judge and executive director of the nonprofit National Organization for Victim Assistance told The Associated Press.
Only in Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Tennessee and West Virginia are there rules prohibiting a sexual offender from living next to his victim. Possibly, that’s because the issue did arise in each of those states at one time or another.
Still, they allow former inmates to move within 1,000 to 2,000 feet of their previous victim.
That’s better than next door, but it is still pretty close.
The legislatures of Washington and Idaho ought to act on this issue this coming winter and not wait for a victim in these states to be faced with the same trauma as the Oklahoma victim.
They will still have to deal with the possibility of living next to some other victim’s sexual predator.
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