March 27, 2015

Half of state's sex offenders will be allowed to live near schools, parks

3-27-15 California:

State parole officials will circumvent Jessica's Law, overwhelmingly approved by voters eight years ago, and no longer enforce its controversial 2,000-foot residency restrictions for sex offenders who target adults, the department announced Thursday.

The decision will allow about half of the state's 6,000 sex offender parolees to live close to schools and parks, avoiding a residency rule that critics claimed was too prohibitive and led to homelessness. Prompted by a March 2 state Supreme Court decision ruling that the residency rules violate the constitutional rights of sex offenders in San Diego County, parole agents will now review existing parolee files over the next 60 days to determine who can be free of the strict living conditions.

"The Court's ruling is specific to San Diego County, its rationale isn't," said Luis Patino, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokesman. "The State Attorney General's Office has advised us that applying the blanket mandatory residency restrictions would be found to be unconstitutional in every county."

The Supreme Court ruling found what critics have long complained about: sex offender parolees cannot easily find housing that meets the restrictions, causing them to be homeless, harder to monitor and less likely to adapt back into society. Of the approximately 6,000 sex offender parolees in California, 1,400 are transients, according to the CDCR.

In 2006, 70 percent of California voters passed Proposition 83 of 2006 and it's biggest proponent was disheartened by the news Thursday.

"This is an overreaction on the part of corrections," said Board of Equalization member George Runner, a former state senator who co-authored Jessica's Law with his wife, then-Assemblywoman Sharon Runner. "The Supreme Court decision was focused on a single county, and I have no idea why the CDCR believes it has to be applied statewide."

Runner said his wife, who was just re-elected to the state Senate in a special election last week, intends to introduce a bill that would let offenders who can't find homes outside the 2,000-foot zone ask judges for permission to do otherwise.

Runner noted that Gov. Jerry Brown, both as attorney general and as a 2010 gubernatorial candidate, "was a big supporter of Jessica's Law."

"It seems stunning to me that his agency now would be making such a bold change that is truly unwarranted even in light of what the Supreme Court decided," he said. ..Source.. by Matthias Gafni

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