Archive for January 13, 2010

Laws Force More Sex Offenders to Live on Streets

January 13, 2010 Comments off Steep rise in sex offender parolees living on the street.

California -Less than a year after state corrections officials tightened a $22 million spigot of free apartments and motel rooms for paroled sex offenders, the number of parolees who say they are homeless has nearly doubled, adding fuel for critics who say the tight living restrictions under Jessica’s Law threaten public safety more than bolster it.

More than 2,200 paroled sex offenders were registered as transient in November, state figures show, up from 1,257 a year ago and 88 in September 2007. That was just before parole officials began enforcing a ban on sex offenders living within 2,000 feet of a school or park where children “regularly gather.”

Many paroled sex offenders said the 2,000-foot ban left them unable to move in with relatives or to find affordable housing, particularly in the Bay Area and other urban centers where only sparse pockets sit outside the prohibited zones.

A Bay Area News Group report early last year highlighted the dilemma, as well as the state’s makeshift solution: funding housing for
several hundred sex offenders, paying more than $2,000 a month for some and putting up others in spots within the banned zones. Some parolee sex offenders had lived off state-paid rent for a few years, and the scarcity of available housing meant clusters of sex offenders — dozens in some cases — living in certain motels.

“We were spending a significant amount. That’s been reduced, and the outcome has been a 100 percent increase” in transient sex offenders, state corrections Undersecretary Scott Kernan said. “That is not a good thing for public safety.”

“We’re finally at a point where we just have to acknowledge this is actually a problem, and it’s not one for lack of trying. It’s actually a public safety issue,” said Robert Coombs of the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault, a victim-advocacy group that opposed Jessica’s Law. “I don’t care if these guys have a nice lifestyle. But if you look at the research, it actually says if you reduce their stability you increase the risk of re-offense,” he said. “I think we’ll start to see there really is that link. The way we find that out is through more victims.”

Backed by 70 percent of voters in 2006, Proposition 83 stiffened penalties for some sex crimes, required lifetime GPS monitoring of newly released sex criminals and set the 2,000-foot “predator-free zones.” Including parolees, the number of sex offenders registered as transient has grown to nearly 4,500, up from 2,300 before the state began enforcing the law.

Last year, State Sen. George Runner, R-Lancaster, sponsored legislation that would have granted cities and counties flexibility in determining the size of the zones. “We’ll be the first to admit there’s not a magic number,” he said. But the bill went nowhere when a Senate committee balked. Critics and supporters alike say there is little political will in Sacramento to make changes that might appear more lenient on sex offenders.

Corrections officials are applying the 2,000-foot rule to all registered sex offenders released on parole after the law passed, regardless of when they committed their sex crimes. The number of homeless may decline significantly if the state Supreme Court rules next month that the rule applies only to those who committed their sex crimes after the law passed.

That would be only a temporary relief, Coombs said.”I think it’s unquestionable that it only gets worse from here,” he said.

NY Counties Pay Sex Offenders to Find Housing

January 13, 2010 Comments off Plan to Build LI Sex Offender Shelters Abandoned. Suffolk to mirror Nassau Policy on placement of homeless sex offenders.

Suffolk County is discontinuing its efforts to locate facilities to house homeless sex offenders and will follow Nassau County’s model of providing vouchers that will enable homeless sex offenders to pick and choose their own places of residency, county officials announced today.

Suffolk had conducted an extensive search for locations that could meet an array of state and local restrictions for housing sex offenders before determining that such a site is virtually impossible to secure. As a result, County Executive Steve Levy has directed officials to follow the practice that is in place in Nassau County and other counties throughout the state—a system that requires homeless sex offenders to choose their own locations and to notify police within 10 days when they have done so.

According to Social Services Commissioner Gregory Blass, the state has decided to abandon the proposal and will also close two overnight locations in East Suffolk. Homeless sex offenders instead will reportedly be given a $90 voucher to stay at a hotel of their choice.

In other words, the laws governing where former sex offenders can live have become so restrictive that these counties have resorted to giving each offender cash to go find a place on his/her own.

German High Court Rules Against Sex Offender Detention

January 13, 2010 Comments off German high court rules against detention of sex offender.

This is timely, as the US Supreme Court just heard arguments on US v. Comstock, which will decide a similar case.

A German man convicted of being a dangerous sex offender will remain out of police custody following a decision by the German Federal Court of Justice. The court found that he could not be put in preventive detention after he’d served over 20 years for his offences.

The 58-year-old from the western German town of Heinsberg was sentenced to five-and-a-half years in 1985 for raping a young girl. After his release, the man raped two more girls and was sentenced in 1995 to another 14 years behind bars.

The 1995 sentenced contained no measures for keeping the man, known as Karl D., in preventive custody after completion of the term. The Karlsruhe court said the man could not be placed in preventive custody because that had not been part of the initial sentence, so that such a measure would be “blatantly retrospective punishment.”

The federal court ruling follows a state court ruling in February of last year in which a Bavarian court also found no grounds to keep Karl D. in police custody, despite his being declared “dangerous” by court-appointed evaluators.

Since being released less than a year ago, the man has been living in Heinsberg with his brother, under constant police surveillance.