Oklahoma House overwhelmingly approves ban of sex offenders from parks

The Oklahoma Senate chambers

The Oklahoma Senate will soon be considering a bill, overwhelmingly supported by House Representatives, that would will ban sex offenders from state parks.

By a vote of 93-1, the Oklahoma House of Representatives on Monday voted to prohibit habitual or aggravated sex offenders from entering a neighborhood, town, county, or state park.

Senate Bill 1364 was written by State Rep. Josh Cockroft. Cockroft said aggravated offenders are individuals who have committed a crime against a child. Habitual offenders are those who have committed more than one sex crime.

"This applies to the worst of the worst," says Cockroft, R-Wanette.

He says Rangers with the State Tourism and Recreation Department first spotted the problem.

"In the last year they heard back from nine of the 35 State Parks and they had 616 contacts with sex offenders. 88 of those were classified as aggravated or habitual so that is what this stems from," says Cockroft.

He points out that right now the law only includes the word "parks" in laying out safety zones. So in his opinion clarification is needed to avoid confusion and close any loopholes.

"It's very well spelled out in the bill," says Cockroft.

Grandparents like Nina Thomas support the change.

"Government works slowly and I'm just glad someone is finally stepping up and let's see if we can get this moved through," says Thomas.

But Cockroft says he's been trying to get a bill like this passed for awhile now and is hoping it's finally gaining the traction it needs to be signed into law.

"This is something that is common sense and I have just been glad to be apart of and hopefully we will be able to move it through the process and make a positive change for our state," says Cockroft.

Brady Henderson with ACLU says he's fearful though that pushing offenders closer to edges of society will only make things worse.

"This bill could essentially cause them to disperse even further into the margin further off the radar screen and essentially into even worse grades of homelessness which doesn't really make anybody safer," says Henderson.

The Oklahoma Senate will now consider the bill. If approved, it will then land on Governor Mary Fallin's desk for approval.