Panel: California should repeal part of Jessica's Law - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Panel: California should repeal part of Jessica's Law

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SACRAMENTO (AP) -- A law enforcement panel is recommending that California voters repeal the residency restrictions for sex offenders they approved four years ago because too many are listed as transient, making them more difficult to monitor.

Jessica's Law, passed by 70 percent of California voters in 2006, prohibits released sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park.

The residency restriction means there are few places the offenders can legally live in many communities. That forces many of them to move frequently, making it difficult for agents to track their whereabouts.

The 17-page report says 2,100 offenders have become transient since voters approved the law. More than a third of paroled offenders are now transient, a 750 percent increase since the law took effect.

"Homeless sex offenders put the public at risk. These offenders are unstable and more difficult to supervise," the draft says.

The report was being prepared for review by the governor's office before its official release, corrections department spokeswoman Terry Thornton said Thursday.

It says sex offenders move frequently and have more trouble finding and keeping jobs. 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.

Thornton said she doesn't know whether the corrections department will act on the recommendations or support repealing the residency restrictions.

"We're always trying to improve ourselves," she said. "The task force's recommendation that the housing restrictions be repealed is worthy of discussion, as are all the recommendations in the report."

Corrections Secretary Matthew Cate created the task force this year in response to high-profile crimes committed by paroled sex offenders, including the rapes and murders of two San Diego County teenagers and a kidnapping in Northern California.

The 43-member task force includes parole officials, local law enforcement, victims' representatives and treatment providers.

State Sen. George Runner, R-Lancaster, who co-authored Jessica's Law, said the experts should have tried to improve a law that had overwhelming voter support. For instance, Runner said he would support reducing the 2,000-foot limit in the communities where that restriction makes it difficult for sex offenders to find legal housing.

"A practical solution is not going to back to voters and letting child molesters live across the street from schools. That's just not going to happen," Runner said. "Maybe the 2,000 feet doesn't work in all communities, but in most communities it surely does."

He also disputed that transient sex offenders are more dangerous than others, given that Jessica's Law also requires that their every movement be tracked by GPS.

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.

The panel also said sex offenders should be required to take lie-detector tests, get more treatment and attach the tracking bracelets before they leave prison instead of within 48 hours after their release.

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