By Marisa Lagos
On a recent Monday evening, two state parole agents drove through a tranquil Fairfield neighborhood, one of them checking a green triangle on the screen of an open laptop that pointed to a single-family home.
Agents Donovan Lewis and Ricardo Bautista knew from the signal that in this house they would find _____, a 48-year-old registered sex offender with an ankle bracelet equipped with the Global Positioning System. Their check was routine and quick: The former Navy accountant and U.S. Postal Service supervisor, convicted of raping a teenage girl, sat quietly at the dining room table with his wife as the agents searched his home.
Not long after the agents left, _____ left too. He drove a vehicle about a half a mile from his house, parked it on the street in an industrial area, crawled into the back and went to sleep, just as he does every night.
As a registered sex offender, _____ cannot legally live at his home because it's near a school. He's one of 2,300 registered sex offenders in California who are homeless as a result of Proposition 83 [Sponsored in part by San Diego County D. A. BONNIE DUMANIS.]. The number has steadily increased since voters overwhelmingly passed the 2006 initiative.
Known as Jessica's Law, the measure increased prison sentences for violent and habitual sex offenders. It also barred registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of schools and parks and required them to wear GPS monitors for life. But a growing number of state officials, law enforcement experts and even some victims' advocate groups say the law that was intended to make California safer from sex predators may actually be placing communities at higher risk for crime.
"Does Jessica's Law make anyone feel safer? Maybe," said clinical psychologist Tom Tobin, vice chair of the California Sex Offender Management Board, created in 2006 to advise the Legislature on the state's management of registered sex offenders. "But do any of the major components of it actually increase safety? ... There's really very little evidence that that's the case."
Instability increases risk
Tobin's board wrote in a January report that the "high and still escalating" number of homeless sex offenders, combined with the lack of housing options, is "the most serious issue facing the field of sex offender management," because instability can increase the risk of committing another sex crime.
The state allows _____ to visit his home for only four hours a day: two in the morning to charge his GPS ankle bracelet, and another two at night for the same reason. He spends most of his days wandering the Fairfield streets, visiting local malls or bookstores, or stopping by the local college library to read and use the computers.
"I don't understand how the public feels safer with me roaming the streets aimlessly," _____ said as he sat in a coffee shop on a recent weekday.
Four years after the passage of Jessica's Law, horrific crimes by registered sex offenders still make headlines, most recently the slaying of San Diego County 17-year-old Chelsea King. Chelsea disappeared Feb. 25 while jogging in a park, and searchers found her body in a shallow grave at the park five days later. John Gardner, a registered sex offender, was charged with murder in the killing. He's also the focus of an investigation into the death of Amber Dubois, a 14-year-old girl who vanished while walking to school last year and whose remains were discovered in San Diego County last month.
Gardner's arrest has prompted calls by one state lawmaker for a "Chelsea's Law" that would further tighten sex offender laws and fix some of the things that are not working with Jessica's Law. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (Contact) also called for a review of how the state manages registered sex offenders.
Critics of Jessica's Law say that many of its elements are failing and that the law's key provisions disregard what has proved to work.
Voters required that all of the approximately 66,000 registered sex offenders in California be monitored and prevented from living in certain areas under Jessica's Law, but the law was applied to only a fraction of that population: those sex offenders placed on parole or probation after the law took effect in 2007. The state removes most sex offenders from GPS monitoring when they complete parole or probation, usually within five years. After that, no one enforces the residency requirements under Jessica's Law. [And the California Department of Doughnutheads and Retards don't enforce it while on parole either.
Vast majority unmonitored
Currently, fewer than 17,000 of the state's sex offenders are subject to the law's restrictions: about 6,700 who are on parole and another 10,000 who are on probation.
The state does not monitor the vast majority of registered sex offenders because Jessica's Law did not specify how officials should deal with them. Gardner, the man charged in the Chelsea King slaying, was among those unsupervised sex offenders: Convicted of molesting a 13-year-old girl a decade ago, he was no longer on parole last month at the time of his arrest. [But Gardner violated parole eight times and kept a Myspace page of "Jason the Stud".]
Critics also complain that sex offenders who are monitored are treated equally under Jessica's Law, regardless of the severity of the crime. As a result, law enforcement officials spend equal amounts of time and effort on each sex offender even though some may be considered more risky to the public than others. While the law restricts where parolees sleep, it does not bar them from visiting parks or other places where children congregate. [Like Gardner who "visits" his mom in San Diego.]
Lawmakers seek changes
The Sex Offender Management Board, which includes prosecutors, corrections officials, police officers and victims' advocates [BUT NO PEOPLE THAT TREAT SEX OFFENDERS], has harshly criticized the law, and Sen. Mark Leno (Contact), D-San Francisco, has called for changes. Across the aisle, Republican Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher (Contact), who represents the San Diego district where Chelsea King lived, plans to introduce Chelsea's Law this month to tackle some of the issues, including emphasizing resources on higher-risk parolees, imposing longer sentences on sex offenders who victimize children, and requiring lifetime parole for those offenders.
But Fletcher said he is unlikely to deal with what some state officials call the most troubling area of Jessica's Law: the residency restriction. [FELTCHER DOESN'T FUCKING GET IT.] Loosening the rules on where sex offenders can reside requires going back to voters. Initiative campaigns are expensive and pose political risks because it is not popular to appear soft on crime.
The residency requirements of Jessica's Law result in homelessness for about a third of the state's approximately 6,700 sex offender parolees - a problem that's intensified in dense cities with many parks and schools such as San Francisco, where 84 percent of paroled sex offenders are transients [THANK YOU, GROSS OUT PIGGIES FOR ADDING MORE HOMELESS PEOPLE ON THE STREET!].
The 17-member Sex Offender Management Board pointed out in its latest report to lawmakers that the number of homeless paroled registered sex offenders skyrocketed from 88 in 2007, the year Jessica's Law was first enforced, to more than 2,300 today. That number probably will grow as the state paroles more sex offenders and returns them to their last county of residence.
Iowa establishes zones
California is not the only state where authorities have had second thoughts about residency restrictions. In Iowa last year, legislators eliminated an identical housing rule and replaced it with zones where registered sex offenders could not work or visit without permission. The change came at the request of law enforcement officials.
Academic studies also point out flaws in residency restrictions that lead to homelessness. One study, co-written by Jill Levenson, chair of the Human Services Department at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., found no connection between where sex offenders live and whether they will commit another crime, and that residency restrictions force sex offenders into homelessness and increased instability, "undermining the very purpose of registries and exacerbating known risk factors for criminal recidivism [LIKE WHAT HAPPENED IN THE GARDNER CASE!]."
Need to focus on behavior
Residency laws, Levenson said, "are really based on a flawed premise," that where a person lives facilitates child abuse. Most molesters know their victims, she noted.
"The time that police and probation officers spend addressing housing issues," the report concluded, "is likely to divert law enforcement resources away from behaviors that truly threaten our communities in order to attend to a problem that simply does not exist."
The residency restrictions are particularly troublesome in San Francisco, Sheriff Michael Hennessey said. Parks and schools are everywhere, making housing nearly impossible for a sex offender, except for some small areas of the impoverished, high-crime Bayview-Hunters Point.
"It's sort of a bad law in terms of being able to apply it," he said. "If you live in San Francisco, you may fool yourself into thinking we don't have any sex offenders, but the result is that they have to live more underground and off the record. They are living someplace, and they are in the city."
Hennessey complained the law is "overly broad," a sentiment echoed by others, including Robert Coombs, a spokesman for the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault. Coombs, appointed in March to the state sex offender board, said it is unreasonable to prevent sex offenders from living in certain spots because "the only time these guys are virtually zero risk is when they are unconscious."
Addressing unique risks
Coombs said loitering restrictions and parole conditions, imposed on a case-by-case basis, make far more sense.
"We know that every single offender poses a unique risk. ... Anything that fails to address that complexity right off the bat misses what we know is the best practices," he said. "Jessica's Law says you can't live near schools and parks and places where children congregate - it doesn't say what you do in a case where an offender strictly targets elderly people. They can't be near schools or parks, but they can live by a convalescent home?"
Jessica's Law is also expensive. The state spends about $65 million a year to purchase and operate GPS equipment to track sex offenders, though the technology itself does nothing to prevent crime [IT DIDN'T PREVENT PHILLIP GARRIDO FROM VISITING UC BERKELEY, WHICH LATER RESULTED IN HIS CAPTURE!]. The majority of paroled sex offenders in California are on "passive" GPS, meaning their movements are transmitted to authorities only once or twice a day.
The Sex Offender Management Board recommends using GPS only in conjunction with supervision and for those deemed most likely to commit another sex crime. Some offenders should be monitored for longer than their parole period, while others should be taken off GPS earlier, the board concluded.
"GPS gives us a false sense of security. It essentially tells us that if we know where a person is, we know what they are doing, but if you look just past the surface, there are plenty of opportunities to be in a location that looks safe but is potentially unsafe," Coombs said.
The sense of security is misleading, Coombs and others said, because there's a belief among the public that all 66,000 sex offenders are monitored. But even if authorities had the money to strap ankle bracelets on all sex offenders and enforce residency restrictions, they could face legal challenges.
The law drives up costs, with little to show for them, in other ways. For example, it significantly increased the number of offenders evaluated for involuntary civil commitment, where persons deemed to be sexually violent predators are sent to a secure, state-run medical center until they no longer pose threats. The state spends up to $1 million a month on evaluations, up from $161,000 before Jessica's Law.
But fewer sex offenders are involuntarily committed now than before Jessica's Law. [I wonder why. Atascadero State Hospital is not overcrowded.]
Meanwhile, apparently violent offenders such as Chelsea King's accused killer, deemed likely to commit another crime at the time of his trial, slip through the cracks.
"We should be revisiting this," Leno said. "We're wasting all this money on GPS ankle bracelets, which law enforcement readily admits does not prevent reoffending, but it's very expensive, and the very thing that does reduce recidivism - treatment - we can't afford."
Defending the status quo
Some of the law's supporters remain unmoved by the criticism. Sen. George Runner [THE ASSHOLE!] (Contact), R-Lancaster [Western Oklahoma] (Los Angeles County), rejected the notion that homelessness leads to increased risk to the public.
"I don't agree with the underlying assumption that if they don't have a home it's more dangerous. There's not one shred of evidence to prove that if they are on GPS," he said. "It's not a big a deal as people want to make it. ... This is why Jessica's Law included GPS. They will behave differently if they are being watched [AND THIS TIME, THEY WILL KILL!]."
Runner said that while he believes the state should be paying for lifetime GPS monitoring, local governments are perfectly capable of doing it themselves [THEY'RE BROKE! YOU REPUBLINAZIS HAVE CUT THEIR MONIES IN THE LAST FIVE YEARS!]. He said he would "hate to be the mayor" left explaining why a city decided not to outfit a sex offender who perpetrates another horrific crime. [DO YOU HATE YOURSELF FOR SPONSORING JESSICA'S LAW, ASSHOLE? CHELSEA KING AND AMBER DUBOIS ARE DEAD BECAUSE OF THIS ASSHOLE LAW!]
- And that is why he is for this, he doesn't want to come out and look soft on offenders and something happens. It's only a matter of time, another sex crime will occur, but the vast majority of statistics shows, it will probably be someone not already a sex offender [like Jarred Harrell, who killed Somer Thompson.]. And he just wants to ignore the facts to protect his own career, instead of doing what is right. [RUNNER IS A GLORIFIED CUNT PROSTITUTE!]
He noted that Democrats in the Legislature killed a bill he proposed two years ago that would have allowed cities and counties to reduce the residency restriction to less than 2,000 feet on an individual basis. [HOW ABOUT ZERO FEET?]
Little likelihood for reform
Critics agree that reforming the law would be difficult, because no one wants to appear soft on sex offenders. The challenge, they say, is finding a way to push smart policies on an incredibly emotional issue, and then convincing voters.
"Once you put a policy in place, especially when you do it with an initiative, even if it doesn't seem to be accomplishing anything and is costing a huge amount of money, it's almost impossible to ratchet down," Tobin said. Politicians "understandably don't want to make any move that will make them vulnerable to charges of 'This guy is soft on sex offenders' in the next election."
- Yeah, because they do not have the balls to stand up for the truth and defend the constitution like they took an oath to do, these are the types of people we do NOT need in office. [THEY NEED TO BE RECALLED YESTERDAY!]
Law named after Florida victim
Jessica Lunsford, 9, was abducted from her Homosassa, Fla., home in February 2005. Her neighbor John Couey confessed to kidnapping the third-grade student in the middle of the night, raping her and burying her alive. She later died.
Couey, a registered sex offender, was on probation at the time of Jessica's abduction and had a long history of crimes, including sex offenses against children. The public outrage prompted Florida officials to pass Jessica's Law, toughening laws on sex offenders. More than 30 other states passed their own versions of Jessica's Law. All are different, but many deal with sentencing requirements and residency restrictions.
- And yet the laws are not doing anything! Children are still being sexually abused and killed by sick individuals, and also making a ton of money for people exploiting others fear and children. [AND WE HAVE TWO DEAD TEENAGERS WHO WOULD HAVE BEEN SAVED IF IT WASN'T FOR JESSICA'S LAW!]
- [AS WE SAID IN THE 1991 BELL GARDENS RECALL ELECTION,]
- [THERE IS NO OTHER WAY! RECALL THEM ALL!]
"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin