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Friday, November 12, 2010

Sex Offenders Forced Into Homelessness a Bad Idea, Task Force Says. Duh.

Posted By on Fri, Nov 12, 2010 at 3:25 PM

The government thought good and hard about this...
  • The government thought good and hard about this...

A law enforcement task force has recommended the state do what common sense would have suggested a long time ago: Repeal the provision of Jessica's Law that banishes paroled sex offenders to homelessness. It's about time.

We wrote about this perfect storm of ridiculousness almost a year ago: Since Jessica's Law  bans all sex offenders from residing within 2,000 feet of a school or park, nearly all of high-density San Francisco is off-limits. With no options for indoor living, offenders must live homeless -- and then, can basically sleep wherever they like outdoors. Experts say that destabilizing the parolees to this degree makes it impossible for them to get job or a life -- increasing the chances they'll re-offend. Common sense also dictates that forcing supposedly dangerous criminals to have no address and to randomly wander the street is not intelligent.

The foolishness just keeps piling on. Earlier this year, the corrections department awarded the contract for a parolee day-reporting center to an organization located across from a school. So the sex offenders are no longer allowed to go there.

Add to these issues the fact that recently passed Chelsea's Law increases parole time for certain sex offenders to 10 to 20 -- or even life. That's a lot of time outdoors.

The task force isn't alone in its recommendations to let the sex offenders move inside. Last week, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled that the law was unconstitutional. The state Supreme Court passed the buck in a ruling earlier this year, remanding the decision to local courts to mull whether the residency restrictions were unconstitutional in their jurisdictions.

The state's Sex Offender Management Board recommended in a report earlier this year that the residency restrictions should only apply to the highest risk sex offenders who have committed crimes against a child. (Check out page 10 of the report.)

But the task force put together by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, has taken it a step further: Get rid of the restrictions for everyone. The Associated Press got a hold of a draft of the report. According to the story:

The panel says some residency restrictions should remain for high-risk child molesters, and parole agents should have discretion to restrict where others can live. The report does not recommend repealing other sections of Jessica's Law, such as requiring that sex offenders' movements be tracked with GPS-linked ankle bracelets or increasing penalties for some sex crimes.

In many cases, parole agents are being overwhelmed by the data generated by the GPS devices. The panel recommended the corrections department create a monitoring center to evaluate the thousands of daily warnings triggered by the GPS ankle bracelets worn by 6,600 paroled sex offenders.

The bracelets send automatic alerts whenever the batteries run low, if they lose communication, if they are damaged, or if the parolee leaves or enters a restricted area.

Parole agents are asked to respond to every alert. A monitoring center would sort out the alarms, freeing agents to respond only to the most serious ones, the report said.

The panel also recommended the department use new statistical tests to better predict which ex-convicts are most likely to commit new crimes and concentrate its supervision on those offenders, the report said.

In the story, the CDCR didn't reveal whether it was going to follow the recommendation. So in the meantime, the parolee we interviewed for our story will have the same answer when we ask what's up when we often spot him on Fourth Street: "Still homeless."

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Lauren Smiley


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