Jessica’s Law : Re-write it or Drop it

April 3, 2009

LAtimes.com : Revisit Jessica’s Law
The sex-offender statute is unaffordable and doesn’t improve safety. If it can’t be dropped, it should be rewritten.

Among its many failings, the measure doesn’t distinguish between criminals who are at high risk of re-offending and those who aren’t. That means a teenager convicted of having sex with his underage girlfriend, as just one example, is subject to GPS monitoring and residence restrictions for the rest of his life, even if he never commits another crime. It also fails to specify what agency is responsible for monitoring those thousands of former inmates, or to devote money to pay for it.

The expense might be worthwhile if Jessica’s Law were actually reducing sex crimes. Yet research has found no connection between where a sex offender lives and the likelihood that he’ll offend again, nor is there any evidence that GPS monitoring lowers recidivism. Further, it’s very hard for parolees to find homes that aren’t near schools or parks, leading to a 12-fold increase in the number of homeless sex offenders since the law was passed in 2006. A lack of stable housing only increases the odds that an ex-con will return to crime — or as the state Sex Offender Management Board put it in a report Tuesday: “Residency restrictions that preclude or eliminate appropriate offender housing can threaten public safety instead of enhancing it.”

Lawmakers rarely show the courage to fix problems created by get-tough-on-crime voter initiatives, but there will never be a better time to improve Jessica’s Law. Ideally, the measure should be overturned, but at a minimum the Legislature should create a review process that allows low-risk offenders to escape the residency and monitoring rules. California simply can’t afford to pay more to be less safe.

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: