Excluding the Convicted: Just How Far Will We Go

In Eugene, Oregon, an ordinance was just passed and went into effect on September 13, 2008, that allows the prosecution of those convicted of a criminal offense in a 20-block area of downtown to be banned from re-entering the area for 90 days to 1 year.  Read the Ordinance online.

While this may seem like a good idea to some, it seems to me that once a person is convicted of an offense and that penalty is paid, life should continue for that person.  They should not be banned from a part of the city.

This really reminds me of The Scarlet Letter, which I’m assuming most readers know about that work of literature which commented on the branding of women convicted of "adultery". When I read that book I found myself shaking my head at that scenario, but at times, we really are not that far afield from a similar society.

An excerpt from the article reads:

Eugene’s downtown exclusion zone bans people convicted of crimes downtown from downtown for a year. People charged with a crime can be banned from downtown for 90 days.

"It requires careful planning to make sure we remain within the law, that we apply the ordinance the way it was intended and that we don’t violate anybody’s constitutional rights," said Captain Pete Kerns with the Eugene Police Department.

Police will start enforcing the downtown exclusion zone in just a few weeks, but it will be some time before police start issuing violations for all the crimes listed in the ordinance.

It’s nice to know that Captain Kerns is at least giving voice to the concept of "constitutional rights" but the implementation of this should be interesting.  Afterall, the Constitution provides for Freedom of Assembly–unless the argument will be that this falls under one of the "time/place/manner exclusions".

Reading between the lines of the ordinance, it appears to me that this is a way of pushing transients and other homeless people out of downtown without directly saying as much.