Stunning Costs of Sex Offender Laws

March 26, 2009

Startribune.com (Minnesota) : Sex Offender Program needs $16 million, and quick.

Minnesota’s controversial Sex Offender Program will run out of money next month unless a bill to cover a $16 million shortfall gets quick action in the state Senate, officials said Wednesday.

That legislative action may occur as early as today, when Sen. Richard Cohen says he expects the bill to win approval in the Finance Committee. Gone from the measure, he said, would be a recent amendment that department officials said would cost the program federal matching funds. On the House side, the bill is headed to the floor.

State Human Services Commissioner Cal Ludeman said there was never a chance that a lack of funding might prompt the release of some offenders, which can only be done through court order. But he said that the funding delay had pushed the program to the brink and forced his department to contemplate serious measures.

The Sex Offender Program, which has an annual budget of $76 million, provides housing and treatment for 510 sex offenders who have finished their prison time and are now civilly committed to psychiatric hospitals at St. Peter and Moose Lake.

KEYT.com (California) : Exorbitant Cost Of Monitoring Sex Offender, Outrages Residents

New details are emerging about the cost to taxpayers, and its staggering:
http://www.keyt.com/v/?i=41789552
(video link)

SFexaminer.com(San Francisco) : Confusing sex-offender mandate stalled in its tracks.

A California law requiring a lifetime of GPS monitoring for sex offenders has turned into a logistical and budget nightmare for San Mateo County — and virtually every other jurisdiction in the state.

Named for a Florida girl raped and killed by a convicted sex offender, Jessica’s Law was passed by 70 percent of California voters in 2006. The law, also known as Proposition 83, imposes stiffer penalties for sex offenders and makes possessing child pornography a felony. But it’s the legislation’s mandate of Global Positioning System tracking and the prohibition of any offender living 2,000 feet from a park or school that has local jurisdictions scrambling for answers. In January, the Governor’s Office announced it was outfitting all paroled sex offenders with a GPS bracelet that can track their movements.

But state officials concede that the tracking is mostly passive — that is, nobody sits in front of a monitor watching offenders’ movement. If they are suspected of a crime, however, the GPS records could help in court.

Once terms of parole are finished, however, the continued monitoring and living requirements are the responsibility of local jurisdictions, according to lawmakers. The state offers no equipment, funding or other resources. There are currently 797 registered sex offenders on the Peninsula, according to Sgt. Brian Raffaelli of the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office.

Jessica’s Law applies to those who have committed crimes since 2006, so the number of offenders who will need the equipment and monitoring is expected to grow each year as they are released from parole.

“In theory, the law was great. But in reality, since it was unfunded, it leaves a big void between what they expect us to do and what we can actually do,” Raffaelli said.

The state spends about $1,500 to set up the system for each parolee and about $6 a day per offender in monitoring costs, Hinkle said. How much counties and cities will need to spend is unknown.

Adding to the confusion is a lack of laws directing local jurisdictions on how to handle violations, and guidance on who’s responsible for the offenders: The county where they committed the crime or their county of residence.

The law’s requirement that offenders cannot live within 2,000 feet of a school or park is also causing concern on the local level — something Raffaelli calls a “logistical nightmare.”

The state’s Sex Offender Management Board — a 17-member panel created by the governor in 2006 — called for the repeal of residency requirements after reporting that the number of homeless sex offenders has “greatly risen” as a result. In November, that board released a report called “Homelessness Among Sex Offenders in California.” It found that the number of sex offenders registering as transient had increased from 2,050 in June 2007 to 3,267 in August 2008, an increase of 60 percent.

“It can be no coincidence that the rise in homelessness among registered sex offenders corresponds with recent changes regarding residency restrictions among all registered sex offenders,” the Sex Offender Management Board report said. “Common sense leads to the conclusion that a community cannot be safer when sex offenders are homeless. In this case, the empirical evidence supports common sense.”

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