favorable sex offender ruling in California court

posted in: State of the World | 0

Los Angeles County Superior Court Supervising Judge Peter Espinoza has ruled that registered sex offenders in L.A. County are no longer subject to the 2,000 foot residency requirements of Jessica’s Law. Will other judges… will other communities recognize the negative consequences associated with ill-conceived residency restrictions and begin looking for solutions that provide adequate protective measures AND work toward community reintegration?

Experts on sex-offender management have said repeatedly that there’s no connection between where a person lives and whether that person will re-offend.

The ruling, which only applies to L.A. County, may be appealed by the California Attorney General’s office. This according to the San Diego City Beat. The article, entitled Judge says L.A. County parolees aren’t subject to Jessica’s Law is available here.

Espinoza points out that the court’s received 300 petitions asking for relief from the law and “dozens of parolees continue to file new petitions every week.” The petitions argue that in L.A. County, there’s virtually no affordable housing that complies with Jessica’s Law’s requirement that registered sex offenders—regardless of offense—reside at least 2,000 feet from parks and schools.

In a related story, The ‘unintended consequence’ How a state law increased California’s homeless sex offender population by almost 6,000 percent, the unintended consequences of sex offender residency restrictions are explored.

On a fundamental level, if convicted sex offenders are so dangerous (note: contrary to urban legend, convicted sex offenders are less likely to commit new sex crimes especially if they are involved in or have completed a sex offender treatment program) wouldn’t you want to know where they live? Wouldn’t you want them to establish a stable residence with positive support systems in place?

They say their parole agents pointed them to this five-block area because it’s one of the few parts of the city that’s not too close to schools or parks. It’s near public transportation and public-storage units, and it’s a relatively safe place for men who, for the most part, never experienced homelessness until the day they were released from prison.

In 2006, when voters approved Jessica’s Law, the ballot measure that, among other things, bars sex offenders on parole from living within a 2,000-foot radius of schools or parks—and allows cities and counties to implement further restrictions— there were only 88 sex offenders in the state who claimed to be homeless. Now that number’s up to 5,064 (as of Aug. 1), more than a 5,700-percent increase in less than four years.

Homelessness has been described as an “unintended consequence” of Jessica’s Law, even though critics of the ballot measure warned that densely populated urban areas, especially those with a short supply of affordable housing, would see a spike in homeless sex offenders if the law passed (with rare exception, parolees must return to the county in which they committed their crime). In San Diego County, roughly 73 percent of residential areas—the red portions of the map below—are off-limits to sex offenders on parole. That may sound appealing to parents and lawmakers, but, experts say, it doesn’t increase public safety.

“When you’re homeless, it’s much more difficult to maintain a stable lifestyle,” says California Deputy Attorney General Janet Neeley, who sits on the state’s Sex Offender Management Board (SOMB) and provides the board with regular updates on the number of transient 290 registrants.

“Obviously, you don’t have a place to sleep or shower, so it’s hard to get a job and keep a job,” she says. “Having a steady job and having family ties and living in a place where you have a support person all are factors associated with less risk of re-offense.”

Neeley says that SOMB has advocated for policies that limit where high-risk offenders are allowed to be—likeparks and other places where children gather—rather than where they’re allowed to live. “Where they live is really irrelevant under the research,” she says.

“And it’s a shame, because a person who commits a sex crime against a 15-year-old girl, it’s very unlikely that they pose any threat to a 2-year-old boy, or a 15-year-old boy, for that matter,” she says. “It’s kind of this one-size-fits-all treatment of sex offenders by our government at all levels that is causing this misery.”