The Dobbs Wire: Banishment! In the 21st century many localities in the United States use an ancient means to get rid of people who have been stigmatized and are despised, banishment. More formally and politely known as “residency restrictions,” the desired result of such laws is to drive individuals who are blacklisted — required to sign the sex offense registry — out of their houses and even out of town altogether. The most infamous example of these awful laws is the encampment of homeless registered persons that sprung up under the Julia Tuttle Causeway in Florida. In the last several years over 90 cities and towns in Minnesota have enacted banishment laws. A class action lawsuit began to expose the unconstitutionality of a state-run facility in which hundreds of registrants were locked up indefinitely in so-called civil commitment, with no real hope of getting out. While the case was pending just the idea that anyone might be released from the facility, to breathe fresh air and go about their life, touched off so much fear that public officials with little ability to resist stupid ideas passed a wave of ‘get out of town’ laws. Residency restrictions certainly need a lot more public discussion.
Law students at Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota rose to the occasion, put on a symposium with presenters including Patty Wetterling and Jill Levenson and drew an audience of several hundred. Kudos to the organizers–the law student staff of the Journal of Public Law and Policy, and the event’s sponsors. The video has just been posted, have a look! -Bill Dobbs, The Dobbs Wire firstname.lastname@example.org