Sex offender seeks Supreme Court ruling on park ban

Indiana Star

Attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union warn that if Plainfield's ban on convicted sex offenders in the town parks is allowed to stand, similar bans and permanent punishment could spread across the state.

The ACLU, representing a Marion County man identified only as John Doe, have asked the state's highest court to review a September ruling by the Indiana Court of Appeals that upheld Plainfield's ban.

The state's high court is expected to decide by mid-November whether to accept the case or allow the appeals court decision to stand.

Plainfield's Town Council adopted an ordinance in 2000 that prohibits anyone on the Indiana registry of sex offenders from being in the town parks or recreation center.

In 2005, Plainfield police saw an Indianapolis man they recognized as a convicted sex offender in one of the town park facilities. He was with his young son. Police later told the man about the town's ordinance and told him not to return.

Court rulings have allowed Doe to remain anonymous even though his real name and criminal history are public and listed on the registry online. He has completed a prison term and probation.

The ACLU sued Plainfield in November 2005. Since then, the town's ordinance banning convicted sex offenders from town parks has been upheld in Hendricks Superior Court and the state Court of Appeals. So Doe and other sex offenders are still prohibited from Plainfield parks.

ACLU Legal Director Kenneth J. Falk said in the recent 19-page filing with the Supreme Court that Plainfield's ordinance, if allowed to stand, has the potential for far-reaching and statewide impact.

Greenwood, Lafayette and Michigan City have enacted similar bans. The ACLU has a suit pending against a Jeffersonville ordinance.

An Indianapolis ordinance passed two years ago was struck down in court as being too broad because the geographic areas of the ban covered most of the city.

Falk said the central issue in the appeal of the Plainfield lawsuit is whether access to the parks and recreational facilities is a legally defined "core value" for everyone in a community.

Plainfield claims convicted sex offenders do not have that right.

The ACLU claims that a permanent ban, even after an offender has completed prison and probation, is excessive punishment.

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