In a trend that is gaining momentum throughout the country, a growing number of communities are establishing tiny parks in an effort to drive registered sex offenders out of town. The tactic takes advantage of laws that place residency restrictions on people convicted of certain sexual offenses, often barring offenders from living near schools, playgrounds and other places where children are likely to congregate.

Strategy may be detrimental to public safety

According to a recent article in the New York Times, some of these new playgrounds – nicknamed “pocket parks” – are so small that there is hardly enough room for a swing set. They are springing up in vacant lots and other unused areas across the country, further reducing the already limited housing options available to people convicted of sex crimes in these areas. While those who support the tiny park movement say they hope their efforts will help keep their communities safer, some experts say the tactic may ultimately be counterproductive to improving public safety.

Because the laws limiting where registered sex offenders may live are often quite restrictive, many people convicted of sex crimes are already having difficulty finding housing. When tiny parks are added to the equation, entire cities can end up being off-limits to registered sex offenders. As a result, more people convicted of sex crimes may end up homeless.

Compared to those with stable housing, homeless sex offenders are not only more difficult to track, but some experts believe that they are also more likely to reoffend. This is because homelessness may interfere with the process of rehabilitation and reintegration into society, while at the same time exacerbating the conditions that make repeat offenses more likely, such as isolation and hopelessness.

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed legal challenges to sex offender residency laws in several states, including one in Massachusetts in 2012. The outcome of the lawsuit could affect residency restrictions in more than 30 communities throughout Massachusetts, the Boston Globe reported.

Massachusetts sex offender registry

People who live, work or go to school in Massachusetts are required to register as sex offenders if they are convicted of any one of a wide range of sexual offenses. Registry information, including the names, addresses and photographs of people included in the registry, is made available to the public through an online database. Failure to register as a sex offender is treated as a separate criminal offense and can have serious legal consequences.

For people facing allegations of sex crimes in Massachusetts, the consequences can be severe. If you or a loved one has been accused of a sexual offense in Massachusetts, speak with an experienced criminal defense lawyer to get the help you need to protect your legal rights and defend against the allegations.