Thursday, November 23, 2006

To stay safe people shouldn't focus entirely on the Sex Offender Registry

Finally somebody's beginning to figure things out:

GRAND RAPIDS -- "I haven't seen it stop a crime," said West Grand Neighborhood Organization Director and crime prevention organizer Nola Steketee. But, like a lot of people, she uses the Michigan Sex Offender Registry and likes it. "It's a great tool. I'm very glad that it's here."

According to a state audit last year, the Sex Offender Registry exists to help prevent convicted sex offenders from committing more sex crimes. The audit, however, didn't look at the question of whether or not it did.

Target 8 Investigators could find no government study asking hard questions about the Michigan Registry. So Target 8 Investigators took a look at the basic numbers.

We looked at State Police crime statistics from 1999, the year before the Registry went online, and 2004, the most recent year for which numbers are available. We combined the stats for rape and other sex crimes, excluding prostitution. We found that there were 147 sex crimes per 100,000 Michigan residents in 1999, and a small increase in 2004, 157 per 100,000.

That suggests the Registry has had little impact.

But "it's always tough to quantify crime prevention," said Michael Bouchard, the former Michigan legislator often regarded as the creator of the Registry. What he means is that it's impossible to know if a crime was avoided by someone acting on information contained in the Registry, or how many times that might have happened.

Bouchard, who recently lost a bid for a US Senate seat, believes the Registry has had an impact beyond what crime numbers might show. "I think it's helped raise the awareness within the community of the problem and the safety issues," he said, "and I think it also put a chilling effect in those offenders because they know there's a lot more attention given to him."

Neighborhood crime fighter Steketee said she has seen another byproduct of the Registry. "I've seen it make neighborhoods closer," she says. "I've seen it make groups of people get out of their homes and actually talk to their neighbors," which, she said, is what crime prevention is about.

The Registry is based on the popular idea that most sex offenders will commit more sex crimes once they get out of prison. But Target 8 Investigators read study after study with contrary results.

One study looked at 61 other research projects and found that the repeat rate for sex offenders is lower than that for other criminals in general. Some 13 percent committed another sex crime, compared to a repeat rate of 36 percent for all other crimes. If that's the case it may suggest why the crime rate at least appears unaffected by the introduction of sex offender registries.

It may be that most sex crimes are committed by people who have yet to be caught and so are not on any registry. We haven't yet found any research that directly addresses that question.

But the fact there are offenders not on any registry is a reason to put the existence of registries in perspective. "There are many potential sex offenders out there who have never been arrested yet and they're not on the list and they still pose a danger," said Tom Cottrell. He's in charge of the Grand Rapids YWCA counseling program that works with sex crime victims.

That means to stay safe people shouldn't focus entirely on the Sex Offender Registry.

On the Net:

Bureau of Justice Statistics Sex Offender Recidivism

10-Year Sex Offender Recidivism Follow Up (Ohio)

Sex Offender Recidivism (Iowa)

Sex Offender Recidivism (Washington state)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Critics say ban on sex offenders in parks too broad, unconstitutional

That such a law is political pandering is evident near the end of the article.

Some young lovers would be exempt from a proposed law in Warren aimed at banning anyone on Michigan's sex offender registry from entering a city park or recreation building.

Amid deep and heated differences, Warren City Council members voted 5-4 late Tuesday making the public properties off-limits to most people on the dubious state list. An 11th hour amendment from Melinda Moore, the councilwoman spearheading the measure, exempts anyone who was between 17 and 21 years of age whose "victim" was not more than five years younger.

Those backing the proposed ordinance say it's simply about protecting children and women from predators.

"If we can keep one person, keep them away from a park and deter them from a child, it's worth it to me," said Moore, a mother of two teenagers.

Critics said that idea may be well-intentioned, but consider it overly broad, unenforceable and pandering to voters.

"I think we're shooting mosquitoes with a shotgun," said Councilwoman Kathy Vogt, an attorney who practices family law. "I don't think it is constitutional."

Joining Moore in approving the first of two "readings" of the proposed law were Mike Chupa, Donna Kaczor Caumartin, Keith Sadowski and council President James Fouts. Fouts had called Moore's legislation politically motivated and unsuccessfully suggested the ban be extended to prohibit drug dealers from Warren's two dozen city parks and two recreation centers.

In addition to Vogt, council members Mary Kamp, Carolyn Kurkowski Moceri and Mike Wiecek voted against the ordinance.

Kamp argued parents do not need an ordinance to contact police about anyone seemingly lurking in a park, and that anyone on the sex offender registry is not easily identifiable.

"They don't walk around with scarlet letters," she said.

Officials pointed out that the sex offender list has inaccuracies and called upon state lawmakers to revise the registry by separating pedophiles from others such as "Romeo and Juliet" offenders who willingly engaged in sexual activity.

Some consider it unfair to continue to punish those who engaged in sex with an underage person -- anyone in Michigan must be at least 16 years old to legally consent to sex -- and are sentenced to the registry for the rest of their lives, to be unable to take their child to a city playground or watch their son or daughter play in a sporting event.

Michigan law prohibits anyone on the sex offender list from going on school property.

Warren City Attorney George Constance said he considers the city's proposed parks ban an extension of that state law.

"I think it's defendable," he said, adding that 10 states prohibit sex offenders from residing near a school or recreation area.

The American Civil Liberties Union is watching developments closely.

"We do see it as unconstitutional. Our biggest concern with it is it continues to punish people well after they've served their sentence," Shelli Weisberg, legislative director for the ACLU in Michigan, said Wednesday.

The state registry has more than 40,000 names. Weisberg said Warren officials would be unable to pinpoint which ones could be considered "predators." The greater fear, she suggested, might involve the over 8,000 absconders whose whereabouts are a mystery to law enforcement authorities.

Asked about Moore's amendment to exempt those who got on the list for acts committed between age 17 and 21, Weisberg said: "Who's to say within that age group you don't have a true predator?

"It's a false, feel-good kind of legislation that doesn't get to who is a true predator."

To avoid violating the state's Open Meetings Act, the only full exemption as proposed would apply to everyone on the offender registry if the person is attending a meeting of a public body at the city buildings.

The ordinance, which still must go through a second "reading" by the council to be enacted, also prohibits offenders from getting memberships at the Warren Community Center's fitness and aquatic center.

Parks and Recreation Director Henry Bowman said a notice to that effect may be posted on the building and the Owen Jax Recreation Center on Nine Mile Road. He doesn't anticipate ordering his staff to run names through the state registry Web site.

But they'll be alert for suspicious activity, he said.

"Our staff is trained to keep their eyes opened," the parks boss said.

"The last thing I'm looking to do here, and don't think that anyone is looking to do, is a witch hunt."

Warren Police Commissioner James Vohs called the ordinance a good one that could be applied in secondary fashion if an offender is suspected of wrongdoing at a park or recreation facility. He acknowledged that Michigan's third-most populated city is not experiencing recurring problems of sexual assaults by strangers on children.

"We have no plan for any kind of sweeps," the city's top police administrator said.

"If we can keep one person, keep them away from a park and deter them from a child, it's worth it to me," said Moore, a mother of two teenagers.

Well of course it's worth it to you. You aren't paying a thing. One could wonder if rapists and other criminals use the same rationale: "It's worth it to me."

Hey Kansas: Iowans say restricting sex offenders locations doesn't work

But will Kansas listen? Don't hold your breath...

Key lawmaker: Proposal on sex offenders 'a bad deal'

TOPEKA, Kan. - Proposals for keeping sex offenders from living close to schools or day care centers may appear attractive politically, but they won't protect children, a key legislator said Thursday.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman John Vratil's assessment came a day after Iowa officials warned Kansas legislators against passing such restrictions, saying they actually put communities at greater risk.

Vratil, R-Leawood, and other members of a committee studying judiciary issues this summer and fall had a hearing Wednesday on whether the state should prevent sex offenders from living within a certain distance - such as 1,000 feet or 1,500 feet - of schools and day care centers. The study committee took no action.

The idea enjoyed some support early during the Legislature's 2006 session, but backing waned amid questions about whether it would have unintended consequences. Legislators eventually told cities and counties they couldn't impose such restrictions and decided to study the topic.

But with Vratil's opposition and negative reports from Iowa and other states, such proposals have less of a chance of passing next year.

"It sounds good on the surface, and that's why it's politically attractive, but when you really determine what the facts are and the experiences the other states have had, it's a bad deal," Vratil said Thursday during an interview.

Iowa officials told Kansas legislators that a 2005 law in their state had such consequences. Prosecutors and law enforcement officials there are working to get the Iowa statute repealed.

"The bottom line is, it doesn't protect children," said Pamela Dettmann, a senior assistant county attorney from Burlington, Iowa.

Supporters of such proposals contend sex offenders who are released from prison should be kept a safe distance away from places where children congregate.

But Iowa officials told the committee that their state's law forced sex offenders to live in remote areas where it is difficult for law enforcement and parole officials to keep track of them.

Also, they said, the number of sex offenders who are unaccounted for has doubled since the law went into effect last year.

In addition, some communities now have clusters of offenders living in motels or other places outside the residency restriction.

Dettmann also said that the law misdirects public attention toward offenders who are strangers to their child victims, when most sex crimes against children are committed by a relative or acquaintance.

The Iowa officials urged Kansas legislators to direct their efforts to treatment of sex offenders and educational programs for young children instead of residency restrictions.

Georgia: going off the deep end again

After the headaches caused by their zoning law, you'd think Georgia's state legislators would stop for a minute and consider what they're doing. But not Eric Johnson (R):

GOP bills target illegal immigrants, sex offenders

ATLANTA - Georgia Republicans are again taking aim at illegal immigrants and sex offenders, both popular targets in the last legislative session.

Eric Johnson, the state Senate's top Republican, introduced a bill Thursday to make it a crime for sex offenders to photograph anyone under age 18. State Sen. John Douglas, R-Covington, put forward legislation making property owned by a person in the country illegally ineligible for tax exemptions.

Both bills were filed in advance of the 2007 legislative session set to begin Jan. 8. Lawmakers were able to begin "pre-filing" legislation Wednesday.

Laws cracking down in illegal immigrants and sex offenders were centerpieces of the GOP agenda in the 2006 session.

Portions of Georgia's tough new law cracking down on where sex offenders can live, work and loiter have been challenged in the courts. A judge has blocked part of the law banning sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of bus stops.

Sara Totonchi, public policy director of the Atlanta-based Southern Center for Human Rights, said the plaintiff in that lawsuit is the perfect example of why the new law is not needed. Wendy Whitaker was convicted of sodomy for having consensual sex with a 15-year-old boy when she was 17.

"To think that someone like Wendy Whitaker could face prosecution for photographing her niece at a family picnic illustrates how absurd the debate on sex offenders has become in Georgia," Totonchi said. ...

CA's Prop 83 is not retroactive

California makes the right call and avoids a whole lot of trouble:

Law on sex offenders narrowed

In response to a suit challenging residency limits, Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer says the measure will not be enforced retroactively.

SACRAMENTO — A ballot measure restricting where sex offenders may live in California does not apply to thousands of ex-convicts who have served their prison time and are off parole, government lawyers defending the initiative in court said Wednesday.

The declaration, made in a legal filing, means a key provision of the measure that passed overwhelmingly in the Nov. 7 election will not affect many of the 75,000 former sex offenders living throughout the state.

It also means the first legal battle over Proposition 83 is essentially over before it began. Lawyers for a sex offender challenging the initiative's residency restrictions near schools and parks said they probably would dismiss their lawsuit soon.

"It appears to us that our client and thousands of other people who thought they faced banishment can now breathe easier," said attorney Dennis Riordan, who represents the Bay Area man who filed the suit.

But Riordan cautioned that he would drop the legal challenge — which has blocked enforcement of the residency ban — only after obtaining a binding agreement signed by Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer and approved by a judge.

Passed by 70% of voters, Proposition 83 authorized a sweeping crackdown on sex offenders, giving California what experts called the toughest such law in the nation. As well as lengthening prison and parole times for repeat and violent offenders, the measure requires registered sex offenders to wear an electronic tracking device for life.

The most controversial provision bans offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park. Shortly after the election, the residency rule sparked a lawsuit from the Bay Area offender, identified as "John Doe" to protect his safety.

The suit said the initiative was unconstitutional because it slapped a new penalty on ex-convicts years after they had already been punished.

Convicted of a felony 15 years ago, the man had served his sentence, completed treatment and has led "a productive and law-abiding life" ever since, his lawsuit said. With the passage of Proposition 83, he "has effectively been banished from his community" as well as from residential areas in virtually every city in California, the suit said.

U.S. District Judge Susan Illston, finding a "substantial likelihood" the plaintiff would prove his case, blocked enforcement of the residency limit. That prompted Wednesday's response from the attorney general.

In the court papers, Lockyer says "John Doe" does not have legal standing to sue because Proposition 83 is meant to apply prospectively, not to former offenders. To ensure the law applied retroactively, its authors would have had to expressly state — or make unambiguously clear — such an intent, which they did not, he said.

In addition, Lockyer noted, the initiative's sponsor, state Sen. George Runner (R-Lancaster) has repeatedly said that he never intended to uproot registered sex offenders already settled in society.

"We never planned for this to be retroactive," Dave Gilliard, campaign strategist for Proposition 83, said Wednesday.

Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), one of the few lawmakers who took a public stand against the initiative, said that statement contradicted the impression left by some of the measure's ballot materials.

Leno said some arguments presented in favor of Proposition 83 clearly "talk about the tens of thousands of sex offenders living among us, saying they need to be banished and that they are so dangerous our children should not have to pass their homes on the way to school."

"So now they're saying it's only the sex offenders released in the future we have to worry about, not those among us?" Leno said. "If I were a voter who supported this, I'd be angry and confused."

Although Lockyer's declaration that the initiative does not apply retroactively will probably make the lawsuit moot, the attorney general did address the constitutional challenge it presented.

The residency ban does not constitute a new punishment, Lockyer said, but is instead a housing regulation that "strengthens community safeguards against potential future acts of child molestation."

Some sex offenders Wednesday expressed relief that they apparently would not be covered by the initiative.

Richard Adamson, 50, of Visalia said the stigma of his offense left him unemployed and unable to find housing for eight months after his release from prison. He now lives in a small apartment within 2,000 feet of a neighborhood park. Six other sex offenders live in the same complex.

"I looked at the map, and all but about 5% of Visalia would be off limits to me," said Adamson, who now works as a bartender. He is a former teacher convicted of lewd and lascivious behavior with a minor. "I have felt a lot of anxiety, waiting for that knock on the door telling me to pack up and move."

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Sex offender laws need thinking out

By Heber Taylor,
The Daily News

A lot of people are having second thoughts about new laws on sex offenders’ accommodation arrrangements. You should, too.

The topic is going to come up when the Texas Legislature convenes in January.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, among others, campaigned on a pledge to make some version of “Jessica’s Law” a priority.

Californians just passed Proposition 83, which effectively bans sex offenders from living in some cities.

The law, which already has been challenged in court, makes it a crime to live within 2,000 feet of any school or park.

League City, Santa Fe and Friendswood are among the cities in Texas that have adopted similar limits on where registered sex offenders can live.

The Texas state attorney general has been asked whether those limits are constitutional.

One of the problems is that, in some cities, all residential property is within 2,000 feet of a school or park. That means it’s illegal for a person on the registry to live in town.

Can you really ban a person from living in a city? And, if we decide that sex offenders are so heinous that they don’t have that right, can we ban people who committed other crimes from our cities?

And if so, which ones? Murderers seem a likely start. How about burglars? Where do you draw the line?

And, if we can ban people from a city, can we ban people from living in the state? As the Texas Constitution says no, how much further back do we have to step in drawing the line?

And what about the people who have served their sentences, learned their lesson and have never offended again?

There are people on the list of registered sex offenders who have done just that. They’re living here in Galveston County.

If they now live within 2,000 feet of a park or school, how should we treat them? Do we force them to sell their homes and move?

Do we consider them safe as long as they own the house — but then force them to leave town if they have to sell the house and can’t find another place that’s not too close to a park or school?

And how does the sale of a home change that person from a rehabilitated citizen into to a threat to society?

Californians were willing to spend millions to put global positioning system monitors on all sex offenders. Do we put the electronic bracelets on those who’ve paid their debt to society? Or is that punishing a person again for the same crime — after he’s served his sentence?

And what about those who committed sex offenses 60 years ago, have paid their debt to society and are now in nursing homes? And what if that nursing home is too close to a park? Do we call the ambulances to take them across the line?

During the election, the rhetoric against sex offenders was a great campaign issue.

But the rush to limit rights as they are now defined in the Texas and U.S. Constitutions is a dangerous game.

This process warrants far more thought than it’s been given.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

False safety: Proposed Marlboro sex offender law misguided

he Marlboro City Council wisely has postponed adopting a city ordinance that would place broad restrictions on the movements and residency of registered sex offenders.

The proposed ordinance, which the council first OK’d then agreed to reconsider on Nov. 20, would bar registered offenders from entering or loitering within 500 feet of and from living within 2,500 feet of any school, school bus stop, day care center, park, playground or public recreational facility used regularly by children.

As we have said before regarding similar laws recently passed in Fitchburg and West Boylston, the proposal is well-intended but only offers the illusion of safety.

Whether such laws have any positive effect is questionable. The vast majority of people who sexually assault youngsters are not shadowy strangers but rather relatives or family acquaintances well-known to the child. It is certainly highly questionable whether a sexual predator intent on assaulting a child will be at all deterred by a buffer zone.

As in Fitchburg, the proposal before the Marlboro council would put virtually the entire city off-limits to registered sexual offenders who have served their sentences and returned to the community. That raises serious constitutional questions.

In Massachusetts there are alternatives to drastic local legislation. The state’s sex offender registry is an excellent resource for parents, school officials and neighbors, and the Legislature is considering tougher sentencing guidelines to keep individuals likely to re-offend behind bars.

Such measures are not fail-safe, of course. But they are apt to be more effective than arbitrary, hard-to-enforce and possibly unconstitutional buffer zones.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Sex offender sweep nets 552 arrests statewide (costs state millions)

DETROIT (AP) — Law enforcement officers arrested 552 people during a recent 14-day sweep of the state for violators of Michigan's sex offender registry law.

The effort also resulted in 622 additional arrest warrant requests, Michigan State Police said Thursday.

Offenders convicted of misdemeanors must verify their addresses once a year. People on the registry who move are required to report their new addresses within 10 days.

At least 125 law enforcement agencies and prosecutor's offices statewide were involved.

Operation Verify was Michigan's third coordinated sex offender sweep, The Detroit News reported Saturday. Since 2005, 1,800 people have been arrested.

Police focused on felons who failed to update or verify their address as required between Oct. 1 and Oct. 15. Officers also conducted nearly 4,000 random residence checks.

"Basically, we divide up the list and then go to the addresses that are listed with the offenders," state trooper Jeff Miazga said. "The checkup could be at any time during the day or night."

The Sex Offenders Registration Act requires those convicted of a felony to verify their addresses at a local law enforcement agency four times a year. Penalties for not complying range from a 93-day misdemeanor to a four-year felony.

Hm. This looks costly. In 2002 incarcerations cost Colorado $28000 per year per prisoner.

If the 552 get 90-day terms, that's $7000 times 552, or almost $4 million. In incarceration costs alone.

If the 552 get 4-year terms, that's about $64 million.

Of course, if they catch the other 622, those figures more than double. And that's before you factor in the enforcement and other incidental costs.

No comment on whether this is a good use of money.

"Punitive By Design and Effect"

It didn't take long for California's initiative to come under fire:

Calif. Judge Blocks Rule on Sex Offenders

SAN FRANCISCO, Nov. 8 -- A federal judge on Wednesday blocked enforcement of key provisions of a ballot measure designed to crack down on sex offenders, ruling the law was unconstitutional just a day after voters overwhelmingly approved it.

Jessica's Law, as it is known, prohibits registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park, effectively banning parolees from many California communities. It also requires lifetime satellite tracking for some paroled sex criminals upon their release from prison.

More than 70 percent of voters approved the initiative Tuesday. Hours later, an unidentified sex offender filed the lawsuit, arguing that the measure should apply only to offenders who register after the law was approved.

U.S. District Judge Susan Illston ruled that the measure "is punitive by design and effect" and probably unconstitutional. She issued a temporary restraining order against the law's residency requirements, saying the plaintiff was likely to prevail. The judge also ordered a Nov. 27 hearing.

Supporters and critics of the measure had expected the residency rules to be challenged in court.

State law already limits where sex offenders can live, but the new rules would make it even harder to find homes for offenders released from prison. Most parolees currently are prohibited from living within a quarter-mile of a school, with a half-mile restriction imposed on high-risk sex offenders.

Ex post facto laws are pretty common in the world of sex offender legislation -- and every time they are upheld, everybody else's liberties are that much more diminished. I will note that in some countries (such as Switzerland), everybody is required to register their residence with the police. Imagine the outcry if some extreme-right government attempted such a law here... and yet... the groundwork is already laid and has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. (Just repeat to yourself, "It can't happen here. It can't happen here. It can't happen here. ...")

It will be interesting to see where this case goes.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

CA Proposition 83: A Fact Sheet for Voters


Proposition 83: A Fact Sheet for Voters

Proposition 83, or Jessica’s Law, aims to become the toughest sex offender law in the nation by enhancing punishment and control measures of sex offenders in California. The initiative seeks to impose strict residency restrictions on known sex offenders and require lifetime GPS supervision of all registered sex offenders in the state. Its proponents encourage a yes vote, stating that California’s kids deserve the protection of its stringent provisions.

Although several organizations have voiced strong opposition to the law, including the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault, a group of 84 rape-crisis centers and sexual assault prevention programs and the California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, the political interest in tough-on-crime measures has prevented thoughtful discussion on the efficacy, cost and realistic consequences of the initiative should it pass.

Given the serious nature of sex offenses, and the grievous, long-term consequences to sex offense victims, California voters may find security in the imposition of longer mandatory prison sentences and restrictive lifelong monitoring of sex offenders. Although it might seem these controls would procure greater public safety for California, the strategy may not address the real issues that underlie most sex offenses. To better understand Proposition 83 and its potential impacts on public safety, it is necessary to place the initiative in its proper context. This includes a consideration of the known facts about sex offending, the consequences similar laws have had in other states, and the serious impact Proposition 83 may have, if passed.

§ According to the U.S. Justice Department, each year there are 60,000 to 70,000 arrests on charges of child sexual assault in the United States. Of these, only about 115 are abductions by strangers. Approximately 90 percent of all child victims of sexual offending know the perpetrator. The perpetrator is not a stranger to the child. Proposition 83 addresses the infrequent situation in which the sex offender is not known to the child.

§ Electronic GPS monitoring may be useful for a limited, high-risk population of sex offenders, and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) currently uses GPS supervision of serious sex offenders in pilot programs throughout the state. By requiring all felony sex offenders to wear electronic monitor anklets for life, Proposition 83 will effectively hide the most dangerous offenders among the masses of offenders under supervision.

§ There are approximately 90,000 registered sex offenders in California. Proposition 83 does not clearly state whether it will apply retroactively, thereby requiring electronic monitoring of all current sex offenders at a high cost to taxpayers. Lawmakers will have to clarify the law with a 2/3 majority vote should it pass.

§ Residency restrictions for sex offenders are already required pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code section 3003(g)(1). A sexually violent predator and a serious paroled sex offender cannot live within one-quarter mile of a school, and a high-risk sex offender cannot reside within one-half mile of a school, daycare center, or any place where children gather. After implementing residency restrictions, the statewide prosecutors group in Iowa has urged their repeal because they impede the state’s ability to manage sex offenders. The residency restrictions in Proposition 83 are problematic for three important reasons:

o Known registered offenders are often forced into homelessness, thus becoming destabilized, more likely to offend, and more difficult to track.

o Police experience shows that residency requirements often result in the disappearance of offenders due to homelessness, limiting the ability of the police to effectively supervise sex offenders.

o Residency restrictions force offenders out of urban centers and into rural and suburban areas where smaller police forces, limited treatment and social programs, and scarce housing options make rehabilitation and supervision more difficult.

§ Among sex offenders, pedophiles who molest boys and rapists of women are among those most likely to recidivate. Proposition 83 applies to all registered sex offenders, casting the same net over the most serious offenders, and those who are amenable to treatment or unlikely to recidivate, despite limited resources and staffing.

§ CDCR has only 52 specially trained parole officers to supervise 2000 high-risk sex offenders. This means that each specially trained officer is responsible for a caseload of approximately 40 to 1. Proposition 83 will exacerbate this already difficult situation.

§ Studies in Colorado indicate that offenders who recidivate do not live closer to schools or childcare centers than non-recidivists, but that positive social support significantly lowers recidivism rates and rule violations. Proposition 83 will not foster access to positive support; on the contrary, social support may be challenged by residency requirements as offenders would be restricted from living with family who live within restricted zones.

§ Studies by the Minnesota Department of Corrections confirmed the myriad problems of residency restrictions, prompting the state to develop halfway and three-quarter-way houses to assist in the transition and treatment of sex offenders. These houses have promoted supportive networks within the community, thus stabilizing offenders and making recidivism less likely to occur. Proposition 83 does nothing to improve the chances for an offender’s successful transition into the community, thereby endangering long-term public safety.

After the passage of Senate Bill 1128 in September, a large portion of Proposition 83 was rendered redundant. The signed bill provides for enhanced sentences for child rape and electronic monitoring of serious offenders during parole. The most controversial and problematic provisions of Proposition 83 are all that remain, and California would do better to forego them.

Despite early support for Proposition 83, major California newspapers have now published statements in opposition to the initiative. The San Jose Mercury News, Los Angeles Times, Orange County Register, and Sacramento Bee, among others, urge “no” votes based on their review of highly demonstrative evidence suggesting that Proposition 83 relies on fear-based politics and offers no effective contribution to improve California’s public safety. Editorials note that residency restrictions will force offenders into areas where housing and job opportunities are scarce, and electronic monitoring of all felony sex offenders will divert funds and attention away from the most serious offenders.

Only a week before the election, Proposition 83 is finally undergoing scrutiny by law enforcement and victims’ advocates. A leader of the California prison guard’s union, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA), indicated that he would not vote for the initiative. CCPOA President Mike Jimenez retracted his support for Proposition 83 because the CDCR is not prepared to implement lifetime GPS monitoring of all sex offenders and the residency restrictions would lead to a surge in the number of difficult-to-track homeless offenders. This comes after the CCPOA contributed $25,000 to support the proposition.

Law enforcement, victims’ rights advocates, and statewide media have recognized Proposition 83’s false promise of safety and are now advocating against the initiative. There are better methods proven to reduce recidivism among sex offenders. California should seek to implement these measures and avoid wasting its resources on Proposition 83.

Sources and Note:

Sources include the “The Impact of Residency Restrictions on Sex Offenders and Correctional Management Practices,” by Marcus Nieto and David Jung, California Research Bureau (August 2006), Iowa County Attorneys Association Statement on Sex Offender Residency Restrictions in Iowa, the California General Election Official Voter Information Guide, California Coalition Against Sexual Assault Public Policy Web site at, California Attorneys for Criminal Justice Web site at

The Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that offers policy analysis, program development and technical assistance in the criminal justice field. For more information, please visit or contact Megan Corcoran at 415-621-5661, ext. 309.