News 8 Investigation: Sex predator laws don't work: What will?
SAN DIEGO, Calif. (CBS 8) - Several News 8 Investigations have exposed a lack of resources and ineffective laws when it comes to tracking sex offenders. Along with anger over Chelsea King's death, the public is filled with ideas on how to improve the system. But why aren't they being used?
There are solutions, but many of them violate civil rights, which seems odd to many people because convicted felons often lose their right to vote, own guns and hold public office. So why can't violent sex offenders like John Gardner be held to a higher standard?
As soon as Chelsea King went missing and John Gardner was arrested, the talk's been tough, with many people and politicians demanding a one-strike policy for sex offenders. But there are other options.
Instead of releasing child predator Matthew Hedge into the public after his prison time, Hedge was forced to live in a state-sponsored trailer next to a prison.
"He should be locked up forever. He can't be rehabilitated, he needs to be put away," one of Hedge's victims said.
The problem is civil commitment is often challenged in court, so parole and probation officers are forced to get creative. Mack Jenkins, the county's chief probation officer says surprise lie detector tests are one way his office is keeping child molesters honest.
"The results themselves are not admissible in court, but the information that we get from the examinations helps us guide our supervision," Jenkins said.
When John Gardner got out of prison in 2005 he stayed out of trouble for three years, probably because state parole officers were tracking him with a GPS device.
"Some sex offenders learn to adapt on probation. They like to stay under the radar," Jenkins said.
Jenkins wants to clarify Gardner was on state parole and not county probation, but his office does monitor hundreds of sex offenders, who can be very devious.
"When they operate, they like to operate in stealth. They'll be the ones who show up to their appointments with their probation officers regularly, they'll be the ones who are home when we want to go see them at home. They don't want to bring attention to themselves," he said.
A lot of people are wondering why sex offenders aren't micro-chipped like dogs and cats. Surgically implanting a device in a human is a violation of civil rights, and keep in mind microchips are used for identification only. The technology for GPS capability doesn't exist yet. For that, you'd need guys like Gardner to wear GPS anklets for life, which can be very expensive - up to $20 a day - and who's going to pay for that?
"We know that the state is in fiscal trouble. We know that there has been a decline in revenues,"
It will take taxpayers to demand the money from federal, state and county governments.
Jessica's Law may be caught up in the courts, but who's to say a new "Chelsea's Law" couldn't make a difference?
"They are saying they don't have the money? These politicians are saying they don't have the money to fund this? You've got to be kidding me, they have millions and millions of dollars. Half this country is living their lives based on fear," protestor Scott Wellborne said.
Chelsea's parents were able to locate her car using a GPS tracking device in her cell phone, so many people are also wondering why that type of technology can't be used to track sex offenders. Apparently the problem is battery power. Once a cell phone dies, you can no longer track it.
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