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N.J. issues Halloween curfew for sex offenders

New Jersey sex offenders who face supervision will be confined to their homes on Halloween.
/ Source: The Associated Press

New Jersey sex offenders who face supervision under Megan’s Law will be confined to their homes on Halloween and will be under orders not to answer the door when trick-or-treaters come calling.

It will be the first time sex offenders in New Jersey will be subject to a curfew.

A lawyer who represents offenders questioned whether the ban will protect children.

The rules were issued by the state Parole Board in a recent letter to the 2,200 offenders it supervises.

The offenders must be indoors by 7 p.m. Monday and cannot answer their door when trick-or-treaters knock. They cannot attend parties where there are children, and cannot take any children, including their own, out in search of treats.

“Our goal is to avoid unsupervised contact,” said Edward M. Bray, acting deputy executive director of the state Parole Board. “There wasn’t a specific event or events that was the impetus for this. We’re taking a pro-active stance.”

Bray said he was not aware of any other states with a similar curfew, though many states and the federal government have adopted versions of Megan’s Law. The law got its start in New Jersey after the 1994 rape and murder of 7-year-old Megan Kanka by a sex offender who lived across the street in Hamilton Township.

Megan’s Law requires released sex offenders to register with police when they moved into a community and for residents to be notified.

Lawyer John S. Furlong said Tuesday he has already heard from a half-dozen of his clients regarding the curfew, but said a legal challenge would not be practical. He conceded that the state has the authority to impose the curfew.

But he said: “My own view is that it’s unfair, expensive and inane. In other words, it’s just stupid. Nobody is going to be safer. Nobody is going to be less at risk. No purpose is served other than the arbitrary abuse of power by people who can.”

He added: “The best monitors in the world for children are their parents. You want to keep your kids safe? Go trick or treating with them.”

Bray said checks will be done by the 60 parole officers in the newly formed sex offender management unit, as well as members of the 12 district offices. In addition, local police departments have been notified of the curfew and were asked to contact the board if they see a violation, he said.

Rutgers Law School-Newark professor Ronald K. Chen, who filed constitutional challenges to Megan’s Law a decade ago, agreed that the parole board has the authority to impose a curfew but wondered how it would be enforced.