U. N. I. O. N.
United for No Injustice, Oppression or Neglect
Jessica's Law - No Way!
Sex Offenders No Place to Go
Article Launched: 02/21/2008 11:47:17 AM PST
As state parole agents track thousands of registered sex offenders under tight new restrictions on where they can live, it is unclear what county probation departments are doing, if anything, to enforce the same housing limits on thousands of sex offenders freed from county jails, according to a report released today.
The wide-ranging report, the first from the newly formed California Sex Offender Management Board, paints a picture of a state trying to catch up to some of the nation's toughest anti-predator laws, while legal questions remain and funding for research, local enforcement and treatment goes lacking.
The courts or state lawmakers, the report suggests, will need to clarify the most vexing parts of Proposition 83, or Jessica's Law, which voters passed in 2006.
In addition to stiffening sentences for many sex offenses, the law bars registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park where children "regularly gather," and requires lifetime personal, hi-tech monitoring of many sex offenders released from prison.
The law does not define how to measure 2,000 feet; how to define a park; who will monitor offenders once they leave parole, as some have; or just who falls under the 2,000 foot rule. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Attorney General Jerry Brown and the ballot measure's authors all differ on how to interpret it. The law sets no penalty for violating the 2,000 foot rule.
The questions have left many local jurisdictions on the sidelines waiting for answers, the report found.
In the meantime, state parole agents are measuring the 2,000 foot restriction "as the crow flies" and applying it to most sex registrants who were on parole or left prison after the law passed 15 months ago, including those with old sex convictions who landed back in prison for non-sex crimes.
As the Times has reported, those parolees have few housing options in the Bay Area, and some are concentrating in a handful of motels and apartment complexes that fall outside of the forbidden zones.
Many others are registering as transients, bouncing from house to house or going homeless to avoid a parole violation that could return them prison. Some say their parole agents recommend it.
Statewide more than 700 parolee sex offenders now register as transient, or nearly one in five who fall under Jessica's Law and are living in communities, the report found. That's an eight-fold rise since the law took effect.
County reporting is spotty, and just how many probationers live within the "predator-free zones" is unknown, the report found. About 7,000 registered sex offenders are on probation statewide, the report said.
The board, made up of state and local officials, advocates and experts, was formed under a 2006 state law to look at a wide range of issues related to the state's handling of sex offenders and their victims.
More than 88,000 people were required to register as sex offenders in the state as of Feb. 1. Nearly one in five violated the rule.
Contra Costa County is home to about 1,400 registered sex offenders, including 39 deemed high-risk parolees. There are nearly 2,500 registered sex offenders in Alameda County, including 108 high-risk parolees, and 849 in Solano County, with 57 deemed high-risk.
About 3,000 parolees are designated as high-risk sex offenders who must be actively tracked with a global satellite positioning device. So far, the state is actively tracking 2,337 of them.
Satellite tracking of state parolees cost about $20 million last year.
California is one of few states that does not have sex offender treatment services in prisons.
Recent state corrections data shows that less than 4 percent of convicted sex offenders who were paroled in 2003 were sent back to prison for a new sex offense over their 3-year parole period.
The report is 219 pages long and can be read and sent to your adopted prisoner at this link
April 30, 2007
RE: Comments on the interim regulations to Adam Walsh Child Protection andSafety Act of 2006 (Pub. L. 109-248), the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA); OAG Docket No. 117
On behalf of the American Bar Association, I am writing to express our opposition to the proposed captioned interim regulations that would apply SORNA retroactively to juvenile offenders.
ABA juvenile justice policy is set forth in 20 volumes of IJA-Juvenile Justice Standards (“Standards”) developed by the Association in conjunction with the Institute of Judicial Administration. The Standards call for individualized treatment that is fair in purpose, scope and not arbitrary. These goals are set forth in the Standard Relating to Disposition:
The purpose of the juvenile correctional system is to reduce juvenile crime by maintaining the integrity of the substantive law proscribing certain behavior and by developing individual responsibility for lawful behavior. This purpose should be pursued through means that are fair and just, that recognize the unique characteristics and needs of juveniles, and that give juveniles access to opportunities for personal and social growth.
The Standards set forth clear parameters for juvenile justice sanctions: the definition and application of sanctions should address public safety; give fair warning about prohibited conduct; and recognize “the unique physical, psychological, and social features of young persons.”
1 The Standards, as well as 1. Standards Relating to Juvenile Delinquency and Sanctions, accepted research in developmental science, recognize that juveniles are generally lessculpable than adults, and that their patterns of offending are different from those of adults. 2 Thus, ABA policy supports sanctions that vary in restrictiveness and intensity, and are developmentally appropriate and limited in duration.
Given the goals of the juvenile justice system and the transitory characteristics of juvenile offenders, ABA policy also limits the way juvenile records are compiled and disseminated. The Standards frown on “labeling” offenders, require very careful control of records, and prohibit making juvenile records public. In addition, “[a]ccess to and the use of juvenile records should be strictly controlled to limit the risk that disclosure will result in the misuse or misinterpretation of information, the unnecessary denial of opportunities and benefits to juveniles, or an interference with the purposes of official intervention.”3 This is so because most adolescent anti-social behavior is not predictive of future criminal activity.
Most importantly, ABA policy prohibits collateral consequences for delinquent behavior: “No collateral disabilities extending beyond the term of the disposition should be imposed by the court, by operation of law, or by any person or agency exercising authority over the juvenile.” 4 Lifetime registration violates this Standard and is detrimental to both rehabilitation and crime prevention.
The ABA opposed those provisions of the Adam Walsh Act that apply to juvenile offenders. A large percentage of “sex offenses” occur within families and do not rise to the level of sexual predation that is the target of the Act. The "Lifetime Registration" provisions of the Act are likely to have a chilling effect on the reporting of these crimes and will reduce admissions (guilty pleas) to the charges in the cases that do get reported. Concerns about the prospects of the retroactive application of the Walsh registration provisions already are having an adverse effect across the country with respect to admissions and delinquency adjudications in sex offense cases. As a consequence of its "Lifetime Registration" provisions, the ultimate impact of the Walsh Act here will be far more contested proceedings in these cases; far fewer delinquency adjudications; and far fewer juveniles getting the treatment they need. In addition, the fact-finding and guilty plea (admission of guilt) processes in most juvenile courts have fewer safeguards than in the adult system. Adjudications for sex offenses tend to lack the precision required by ABA policy (See Standards Relating to Adjudication). Furthermore, sex offending in adolescence has limited correlation to adult sex offending (the number of false positives close to 90 percent).5
Because the Adam Walsh Act is inconsistent with ABA juvenile justice policy and because we believe the statute is overbroad in this respect, we urge you to draft the regulations so as to not further broaden the reach of the act and to minimize the harm that will result from application of the statute. The clearest way to accomplish this is to reject retroactive application of the Act to those who were under 18 at the time of their offenses. To the extent possible, the
2. See Standards Relating to Juvenile Delinquency and Sanctions, Part
III: General Principles of Liability. 3. Standards Relating to Juvenile
Records and Information Services, Part XV: Access to Juvenile Records.
Posted on Sat, Nov. 18, 2006
Prosecutors and California lawyers narrow Jessica's Law's reach
SACRAMENTO - County prosecutors and state lawyers further narrowed their interpretation of a voter-approved crackdown on sexual offenders Friday, saying the initiative's lifetime restrictions don't apply to criminals who are currently on parole.
Proposition 83, overwhelmingly approved by voters last week, applies only to offenders who are released from prison in the future, the lawyers said in fending off two attempts to temporarily block portions of the new law.
The sweeping measure known as Jessica's Law passed with 70 percent support in last week's election.
It bars registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park, increases prison terms for sex offenders, and requires lifetime satellite tracking for rapists, child molesters and other felony sex criminals after their release from prison.
A day after voters approved the measure, U.S. District Judge Susan Illston in San Francisco temporarily blocked the 2,000-foot residency requirement from applying to currently registered offenders who are not on parole or probation.
In court papers and a federal court hearing Friday in Sacramento, lawyers representing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration applied the same interpretation to those who are currently on parole.
They were responding to lawsuit filed by an anonymous Sacramento County resident who is being monitored by a Global Positioning System bracelet while he is on parole.
He fears the new law means he will have to wear the GPS bracelet for the rest of his life and will never be able to live within 2,000 feet of a school or park. The man was imprisoned for offenses committed more than 20 years ago, according to his lawsuit, but now is on parole for failing to register as a sex offender.
District attorneys in six Central Valley counties and lawyers for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger argued in court papers that the GPS tracking and residency requirements apply only to those who are released from prison in the future.
The state "has no intention of enforcing (Jessica's Law) as to individuals in plaintiff's circumstances," state lawyers wrote.
U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton of Sacramento ordered that he be notified if the government changes its mind and has the man evicted from his home.
A similar legal challenge, this one contesting the lifetime GPS monitoring, is pending in Los Angeles federal court on behalf of an offender who has been living in a Ventura County motel since he was paroled in September after 12 years in prison.
U.S. District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper denied a temporary restraining order in that case because she said she didn't have enough information to reach a conclusion.
All three suits are now awaiting additional hearings.
"If nothing else, we need these issues to be clarified," attorney Scott Wippert, who filed the Sacramento suit, said after Karlton's ruling. "The law is clearly ambiguous."
Threat to rural life
One of the most sweeping changes to California's penal code could come to fruition among the farmlands and pastures of Sacramento County and other rural havens, where scores of sex offenders may end up living under the newly passed Proposition 83.
A centerpiece of the so-called Jessica's Law prohibits sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a park or school, virtually banning these convicts from urban areas around the state, including Sacramento.
The ban, if upheld in federal court, will push waves of newly released sex offenders into county lands, straining budgets, stretching law enforcement resources and fraying nerves among neighbors at the center of one of the largest legal experiments in the country.
"I'm like everyone else, I'd prefer they didn't live near me," said Lynn Ray, a grandmother and longtime resident of Twin Cities Road outside Galt that would be open to sex offenders.
"But, I do know they need to live somewhere, and I don't know where that should be."
A map compiled by state demographers before the election showed that the residential restrictions would make San Francisco, Los Angeles and Sacramento largely off limits to the estimated 350 sex offenders paroled monthly from prison and hundreds of others released from county jails.
By law, these parolees and probationers are to return to the county they last called home. Other key portions of the law require lifetime satellite monitoring of all sex offender felons and longer sentences for certain sex crimes.
The fate of the newly passed law, which won more than 70 percent of the vote, is already complicated by three separate legal challenges in federal court over whether the law applies retroactively to the state's nearly 90,000 registered sex offenders.
Attorney General Bill Lockyer, who is named in the suits along with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and a collection of county district attorneys, has said the law was never intended to be retroactive, though the language in the initiative is less explicit.
Some convicted sex offenders say the law puts them in too broad of a category, lumping lower-level offenders such as those found guilty of indecent exposure with serial rapists and the homicidal pedophiles shown on news broadcasts.
High-risk offenders already were governed by a California law that restricted them from living within a quarter-of-a-mile of any school.
Those responsible for enforcing the new law already are dealing with small budgets and staff, making supervision of offenders a challenge.
The specter of directing more resources to more closely watch every sex offender -- where they move to, how they're electronically tracked -- has only raised more questions.
No one knows for certain who ultimately will pick up the tab for satellite monitoring or the necessary equipment.
"It's a concern," said Sacramento County Sheriff John McGinness, whose department has been inundated with phone calls from sex offenders worried about the new law. "Ultimately, there are things that are going to have to be refined to make it work.
"We're all going to be affected by it."
Of the 15,000 probationers in Sacramento County -- 800 of them are sex offenders -- probation officers are able to keep tabs in the field on about 12 percent to 14 percent of the caseload, said Steve DeRoss, assistant chief probation officer for Sacramento County, which has a budget of over $100 million.
"We're a long ways (from dealing) with all the cases we have, much less bringing on a mandate to supervise a certain population very closely," DeRoss said. "Not to say it isn't warranted, but it will be something the county will have to look at.
"How much can we afford to do?"
In Yolo County, where the probation department runs on about a tenth of the budget in Sacramento County, two probation officers are assigned to supervise more than 60 sex offenders each. The second officer was just added eight months ago.
The agency is also responsible for watching about 4,000 other residents on probation.
If forecasts prove true, the rural county land that runs along Interstates 5 and 80 could inherit scores of sex offenders pushed out of more urbanized counties.
Smaller communities in Yolo County -- those dusty depots surrounded by warehouses, farmland and mills -- could also find themselves surrounded by a number of sex offenders who cannot move to areas of Davis and Woodland because of the restrictions.
"It makes me nervous; I mean, it's such a quiet, little country town. We come here to raise our families and to escape the crime in the city," said Cristina Jimenez, 24, cradling her 7-month-old daughter, Celeste.
"This is why we chose to live here."
Jimenez and her next-door neighbor, Patricia Nunez, 38, live in a neighborhood less than 10 minutes from downtown Woodland but not near any parks or schools.
"We don't want them here," Nunez, with her 7-year-old son by her side, said in Spanish.
"We have families here."
State Sen. George Runner and his wife, Assemblywoman Sharon Runner, both Lancaster Republicans who sponsored the initiative, said it was intended to protect children, with George Runner saying he hoped it could become the "model for the nation."
Nearly two dozen other states restrict where sex offenders can live, an issue ignited nationally in 2005 when a child molester in Florida murdered 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford.
But critics of California's new law point to Iowa as an example of what can come.
A movement is under way in that state to repeal restrictions after authorities reported a drain on local resources and said that a distressing number of sex offenders had become homeless, or had disappeared entirely from the state's registry after the law took effect last year.
"It was well intentioned, and it sells well to the public; it gives the impression of providing safety, but if you look at the evidence, it's really not going to provide the protection people expect to get," said Corwin Ritchie, executive director of the Iowa County Attorneys Association, which is pushing legislation to scale back residential restrictions.
Ritchie said there is scant evidence that the law, which passed in 2002 but was on hold for three years because of court orders, reduced sex crimes.
In fact, it seemed to warp public perceptions that sex crimes are committed by strangers, when most crimes involve someone who knows or is related to the victim.
"This is not good public policy," he said.
The expected exodus from urban areas could actually encourage new crimes, as access to jobs, therapy, family support and other crucial resources shown to reduce recidivism diminish, said Niki Delson, a clinical social worker with the California Coalition on Sexual Offending, an advocacy group that works to end sexual abuse.
"When you take a group of people, ostracize them ... you make them not want to be good," said Delson, who once ran a sex offender treatment program in Humboldt County.
"If we look at what happened in Iowa, then we can anticipate that people in the urban centers will start migrating to the rural areas, and others will just go underground. We will not know where they are."
In rural areas that could be acutely affected by the new law, officers admit they already have their hands full.
On a recent evening in Woodland, two probation officers and their supervisor suited up in black bulletproof vests, strapped on their guns, radios and badges to tackle a few names on a list of 121 sex offenders on probation.
Jim Metzen, the supervising probation officer, said his department manages a caseload where one to two probationers are added monthly for every one who gets off the list.
On this night, they visited a sexual batterer and an elderly man who would not say what his crime was.
But he said it was serious enough that he cannot find housing and lives out of an aging Cadillac behind a trucking yard.
"If it does go through," Metzen said of the law, which must survive the court challenges, "then, we're going to have to make sure all of our probationers are not within restricted area, and finding available housing could be difficult. It's already difficult."
Jessica's Law coming unglued already
The Times-Standard editorialized in October that if an initiative sounds too good, it probably has a ticking time bomb hidden inside. We recommended against Proposition 83 -- the so-called Jessica's Law -- for many reasons, but voters took the bait to the tune of 70 percent approval. Now starts the ticking.
The Sexual Predator Punishment and Control Act bars paroled sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet (four city blocks) of a school or park, which will keep them out of urban areas. It also requires that they wear global positioning (GPS) devices that will track their whereabouts for life.
Even Humboldt County voters -- who had been warned that the law would drive sex offenders to rural counties like ours, and that GPS costs would drive law enforcement costs through the roof -- gave the law two-thirds approval.
But within a day after the election, a federal judge stayed parts of the law from applying to existing parolees. Even avid supporters of the measure welcomed the judge's action, indicating just how poorly written it is. This week, county prosecutors and state lawyers agreed.
So now the law will apply only to those released from prison in the future. And another suit is challenging the GPS monitoring provisions. Stay tuned for further attacks on this bad law.
Sex Offender Wins Battle Over Prop. 83
Nov. 17 - KGO - Sex offenders currently on parole won another victory today in the battle over Proposition 83. A federal judge ruled in favor of a registered sex offender who was told he would have to move after voters passed Jessica's Law last week.
For the second time in as many weeks, a federal judge said the residency requirement in Jessica's law is not retroactive. Meaning if sex offenders committed their crimes before the law passed last week, they don't have to move 2000 feet away from a school or park.
Scott Wippert, attorney: "Our goal is met - at least at this point - our client will not be banished from his home or community until we can argue further."
This ruling is significant because the John Doe in this case is a sex offender on
parole. Although supporters of Jessica's Law have always said it would not be retroactive, the state sent him a letter before Election Day telling him to get ready.
Scott Wippert: "It told him to get ready if Proposition 83 passes and he lives within 2,000 feet of a school or park where children congregate, he will be required to move."
The confusion over whether Jessica's law is retroactive has spurred a number of lawsuits. Another judge in San Francisco last week found in favor of a sex offender who was off parole. But no matter how many legal challenges there are, the state is ready to defend the law that voters passed overwhelmingly.
Margita Thompson, governor's press secretary: "We believe in its validity and we'll continue to fight it through the court process. But we believe it shouldn't be held up just because of these different court challenges. But the people spoke and the people need to be heard."
The Sacramento sex offender also tried to get the judge to rule that lifetime GPS should not apply to him either. He's wearing one now because of a parole violation, but the judge didn't address it.
Scott Wippert: "We are disappointed in that but this is the beginning."
The San Francisco and Sacramento judges will later hear more arguments on whether the temporary restraining orders should become permanent. Meanwhile, there's no stopping Jessica's law from being applied to those who commit sex crimes from now on.
Editorial: Bad idea, bad law
Less than 24 hours after voters overwhelmingly approved an initiative that would impose ill-considered restrictions on paroled sex offenders, a federal judge stayed those parts of the new law that would have covered existing parolees. And, in a hint of just how poorly drafted and ill considered this measure was, even Proposition 83's most ardent supporters welcomed the judge's action.
Among other things, Proposition 83, the Sexual Predator Punishment and Control Act, bars paroled sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park. It also requires them to wear global positioning devices that will track their comings and goings for life.
The plaintiff in the lawsuit challenging the initiative was convicted of a nonaggravated sex offense 15 years ago, served his time and according to his lawsuit "has been a law-abiding and productive member of his community" ever since. Because he lives within 2,000 feet of a school or park, "(p)laintiff will be forced to move from his home, and ... be irreparably harmed," federal Judge Susan Illston wrote in her restraining order. That order blocks the measure from applying retroactively to some 90,000 sex offenders who committed their crimes before the measure was approved.
The legal affairs secretary for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a strong supporter of Proposition 83, said the administration would "vigorously" fight the lawsuit. But the initiative's leading sponsors, Sen. George Runner, and his wife, Assemblywoman Sharon Runner, said they never intended for Proposition 83 to apply retroactively, and they don't believe the judge's order will interfere with implementation plans.
Meanwhile, the president of the California Correctional Peace Officer's Association, the state prison guards union, who previously supported the initiative, has had second thoughts. At a Capitol hearing last week, Mike Jimenez said he believes Proposition 83 will burden parole agents with the impossible task of finding housing for thousands of displaced sex offenders. He called it "a bad idea." He's right. Sadly, it's now state law.
Federal judge blocks proposition on sex offenders
(11-08) 15:08 PST SAN FRANCISCO -- One day after California voters overwhelmingly passed an initiative tightening legal restrictions on registered sex offenders, a federal judge has blocked local enforcement of a provision forbidding past offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park.
U.S. District Judge Susan Illston in San Francisco issued the temporary restraining order today against the provision of Proposition 83 at the request of a Bay Area man who pleaded no contest to a sex crime more than 15 years ago, according to his lawsuit.
The suit claims that Prop. 83, approved Tuesday by a vote of 70 percent to 30 percent, would impose retroactive punishment by forcing the man to move immediately from the community where he has lived for more than 20 years.
Illston found that the plaintiff, identified only as John Doe, had shown a "substantial likelihood of success'' in demonstrating that Prop. 83 is a punitive measure that should not be imposed retroactively on people who committed sex crimes before it passed. She barred enforcement of the residency restrictions until Nov. 27, when a hearing is scheduled before another judge on a preliminary injunction that would extend the ban.
The order applies only in San Francisco, Alameda, Marin and Sonoma counties, whose district attorneys were named as defendants, along with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and state Attorney General Bill Lockyer.
But Dennis Riordan, a lawyer for the plaintiff, said the restraining order serves notice on law enforcement officers anywhere in California that they should not enforce the residency restrictions at least until Nov. 27.
The suit said John Doe, now "a successful and contributing member of his community,'' lives in one of the four counties and would move to a new home in one of those counties if forced to comply with Prop. 83.
In addition to the residency restrictions, Prop. 83 requires registered sex offenders to carry global positioning system devices with them so that law enforcement officers can monitor there whereabouts. Both requirements are lifelong.
California has more than 100,000 registered sex offenders. Prop. 83 did not say whether its restrictions would apply to them or would only affect future registrants.
State Sen. George Runner, R-Lancaster (Los Angeles County), an author of the measure, said today that it was not intended to apply to anyone who has already served a sentence and registered as a sex offender, but only to those who are now in prison or who will be sentenced in the future.
E-mail Bob Egelko at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Article published Oct 18, 2006
It's a challenging proposition, even for the most experienced voters.
Eight statewide initiatives involving complex and emotional issues are on the Nov. 7 ballot.
The topics are abortion, property rights, taxes on oil and land parcels, sexual predators, campaign finance, water quality and smoking. Each measure has flaws. We recommend voting against all of them.
What it would do: Increase penalties and tighten restrictions on violent, habitual sex offenders and child molesters. It would prohibit registered sex offenders from residing within 2,000 feet of any school or park and require lifetime Global Positioning System monitoring.
Local impact: It would be harder for registered sex offenders to find a place to live in more densely populated coastal urban areas, forcing a disproportionate number of them to relocate to the Valley and more rural areas.
Recommendation: Vote no.
Reasons: 90 percent of sexual assaults are committed by those who know their victims. This initiative wouldn't protect victims in typical family settings. The GPS monitoring costs could exceed $500 million. Rural law enforcement agencies, least equipped to deal with sexual predators, soon would be burdened with too much bulk of the responsibility for watching them.
Bottom line: Recent legislation covers some of this initiative's purpose.
Let's find a better way to protect our children.
Local impact: One hundred million dollars would be dedicated to restoration efforts on the San Joaquin River; $275 million would be mandated for flood-control projects in the San Joaquin Delta.
Recommendation: Vote no.
Reasons: This measure is an environmentalist's dream with its shotgun approach to a variety of projects. In the past decade, voters have approved $11 billion for similar purposes.
Bottom line: This lacks the concentrated focus of state infrastructure
bonds on the ballot and is poorly timed.
Local impact: Same as the rest of the state.
Recommendation: Vote no.
Reasons: In 2005, voters rejected Proposition 73. This is essentially
the same measure. As we said a year ago, you can't legislate proper communication
between parents and children.
Local impact: Same as the rest of the state.
Recommendation: Vote no.
Reasons: Analysts predict the new tax would raise approximately $2.1 billion per year for health care at the beginning. Over time, it would bring in less as smoking declines. This is ballot-box budgeting at its worst.
Bottom line: This is a regressive tax on smokers, many of whom tend
to be California's least-educated, lower-income residents.
Local impact: Same as the rest of the state.
Recommendation: Vote no.
Reasons: Even though this law states that oil companies can't pass the tax on to consumers, this approach would depress domestic pumping, further encourage overseas imports and eventually add to the cost of gasoline. It also lacks accountability and would be exempt from competitive bidding and conflict-of-interest laws.
Bottom line: Proposition 87 looks good a first glance but raises more
problems than it answers.
Local impact: Areas with high rates of poverty would be hardest hit. The $50 tax would be the same in Stockton as Beverly Hills.
Recommendation: Vote no.
Reasons: It would be applied unfairly, raise only about 1 percent of the state's education spending, attempt to circumvent Proposition 13 and set a dangerous precedent.
Bottom line: This proposal has managed to unite anti-tax organizations
and teachers unions in opposition
Recommendation: Vote no.
Reasons: This is sponsored by the California Nurses Association, which plans a future proposition to mandate universal health care. Proposition 89 is a power play, because it's written to restrict the contributions of corporations and individuals, but not of nonprofit groups such as the nurses organization.
Bottom line: Unfortunately, the Legislature has failed to pass campaign-finance
reform. When this measure loses, lawmakers will get another chance.
Local impact: Same as the rest of the sate
Recommendation: Vote no.
Reasons: This measure offers a fix for eminent-domain abuse that would create more damage than it would repair. It would encourage costly new lawsuits. It's supported by a single New York investor, Howie Rich.
Bottom line: This is a stealth proposition that would alter everything
from land-use decisions to business regulations.
Milpitas Post urges a "NO" Vote on Prop 83 Jessica's Law http://www.themilpitaspost.com/editorial/ci_4446776
Lineup of initiatives on November ballot range from well-meaning to loony Milpitas Post Staff Article Launched:10/05/2006 02:58:24 PM PDT WHEN the progressive era reforms swept across California and a good part of the nation back nearly a hundred years ago, the linchpin of the new kind of government it ushered in was the initiative and referendum. It was aimed at the people overriding elected officials in the pocket of giant special interests like the railroads of the day.
Like some of those long-gone railroads, these reforms seem like they are going off the track.
The rundown of the following seven propositions put on the Nov. 7 ballot by statewide signature gathering, mostly by paid solicitors, are examples of how far we have come from the original ideas of those idealistic progressives.
Last week's Post editorial dealt with the five measures put on the ballot by the governor and legislature. It also talked about Proposition 84, a water measure that somewhat parallels Proposition 1E on the same ballot. Now let's look at the others.
Proposition 83: Here's another one of those efforts to frighten voters and induce them to approve ever-more stringent penalties on anyone who has any criminal conviction of a sexual offense, all on the theory this will make us safer. Among the weird notions are to make every sexual offender who is free after serving his sentence wear a satellite tracking bracelet the rest of his or her life. Another part of the proposal would prevent any offender from living within two-fifths of a mile of any public building, school, library or virtually anything else the local city council could designate. This senseless proposition deserves to be dumped. Vote "no" on 83. Proposition 85: This one is another skirmish in the ever-present battle between foes of abortion and what is clearly a majority of Californians who favor it. This specifically is another attempt to get the government to compel a pregnant teenager to talk with her parents. Voters rejected a similar measure in 2005.
Parents with an open and loving relationship with their children are not really the victims of this proposed law. Enacting it will not reduce abortions. It simply encourages a rebellious teen to go to some back-alley abortionist or to a nearby state where the laws don't apply. Proponents say the teen can go to court and get a secret approval, bypassing parents. Such an effort takes time often not available. We join with the American Medical Association and most health professionals in urging a "no" vote on Proposition 85.
Proposition 86: If one watches television commercials, one might think the only things on the ballot are propositions 86 and 87. These are where the really obscene amounts of money are being poured.
Proposition 86 would put a giant boost in cigarette taxes to fund hospital emergency rooms and get more money to educate against smoking. Everyone seems to agree that the $2.60 per pack tax discourages smoking. Some predict it could drop by more than 25 percent.
Cigarette companies haven't been stingy with the contributions. And hospitals and various health associations have chipped in on the other side to get their message out. The argument that smugglers will take over the cigarette market seems quite far fetched since the average retailer doesn't want to run that kind of risk. We would recommend a "yes" on 86 to keep up the momentum against smoking.
Proposition 87: This is the other measure that takes on a societal villain. In this case the oil industry is targeted for a 6 percent tax when it is priced more than $60 per barrel, as it is now. A deep-pockets film producer has put up the money for this measure, that would spend the proceeds on worthwhile alternative energy projects. Despite being forbidden in the proposition, the tax is most likely to be passed along to consumers. Thus it sort of comes down to a question of whether you think gas prices should go up, albeit for a good cause.
If a gas tax were to go forth, it could lead to more conservation and purchases of more fuel-efficient cars. But don't high prices do that already? We are inclined to recommend a "no" on 87.
Proposition 88: Here is another example of well-meaning wealthy individuals crafting a measure whose goals are noble but the implementation has lots of drawbacks. To improve five different programs in school grades kindergarten through 12, this measure would impose a $50 per year parcel tax on every piece of property (whether a 25-foot bungalow lot or a multi-million dollar mansion or shopping center) above all other school financial sources.
The parcel tax is an unfair, regressive tax in principle. But if there is a serious need in a local area, it makes more sense for that district's voters to impose such a tax. And many have. We suggest a "no" vote on 88.
Proposition 89: Clean money in politics is a wonderful ideal. And such is the motivation for the well-meaning folks (such as the California Nurses Association) who created and support Proposition 89, one of a chain of efforts through the years to take the big bucks out of the political process. Sounds like dream stuff but it has to be admired.
This measure would provide a system of taxpayer provided campaign funds to snuff out the huge fundraising activities that choke most elected official schedules. It would require a large number of private small contributions to gain the public funds. It explains all this in 55 pages of tiny type to set forth how it would work. The bureaucratic nightmare it also creates makes it a disaster, however. Sadly, we'd suggest a "no" on 89.
Proposition 90: Probably the measure most likely to engender total mayhem in local government is this very radical plan to redefine the power of governments. It kind of implies that the target is the eminent domain issue that has become a war-cry for right wing zealots, triggered by the Kelo vs. New London case in Connecticut, where a city took over homes for a private shopping center to build a tax base. California law already prevents that kind of "taking" by eminent domain.
This measure goes into virtually any zoning or land-use regulation a city or county puts forth that any property owner can claim resulted in a reduction of his property values. If that can be established, the public agency must buy the property or pay off the owner. Under current law, only if a city actually takes the property, must it pay. This is a Trojan horse that can have all kinds of unintended consequences for government at all levels. It deserves a "no" vote.
EDITORIAL PROP 83 Folly of 'Jessica's Law'
WHO COULD argue against locking up sex offenders for as long as possible, and then, even after they may have spent decades in prison, monitoring them forever?
That may explain why Proposition 83, the so-called Jessica's Law, has been endorsed by virtually every political candidate, including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his opponent state Treasurer Phil Angelides. It is well ahead in public opinion polls.
But despite its visceral appeal, Prop. 83 is a terrible initiative that does not stand up to close scrutiny.
One of its most obvious flaws is the ban on sex offenders living within 2,000 feet of any school or park. What this will mean is that most urban areas in California will be placed off limits to sex offenders. They will instead be forced into living in rural areas -- an unfair burden to those communities and a barrier for those ex-offenders who are making an effort to find employment and straighten out their lives. In addition, understaffed law enforcement and social service agencies in remote parts of the state might not have the resources to adequately monitor these individuals. Public safety may be endangered rather than enhanced.
Another overreaching provision of the law is its requirement that all registered sex offenders wear expensive global positioning devices for life. According to the Legislative Analyst, such a step will end up costing the state tens of millions of dollars each year. It makes no provision for relieving the state of the burden of monitoring aging individuals who may have been fully rehabilitated -- or even to focus on those offenders who are most likely to re-offend.
Ideas that are presented as "tough on crime" are not necessarily the most effective against crime -- especially when resources are limited. Vote no on 83.
October 16, 2006
As We See It: No on Proposition 83:
On the face of it, neighbors and county officials who wanted 17 paroled sex offenders out of a home in Happy Valley seemed to be acting in the interest of public safety.
After all, who would want a sex offender living next to them, much less 17?
Now the owner of the property where the paroled offenders were living said he's closing down the house. He did so after being repeatedly cited by the county for various building code violations and after vociferous protests by worried neighbors and parents in the area.
State parole officials have given the owner until Sunday to get the sex offenders out.
Sounds good, right? They're gone!
Well, not really.
We take issue with this kind of backlash, which, unfortunately, is part of a bigger trend in this county that can be grouped under the NIMBY not in my backyard heading.
Because we need to ask: Where should these people live?
If not in Happy Valley, and not near schools, as the law says, then where?
Is there a neighborhood that would welcome a group of people, or single individuals, who have paid their debt to society and are trying to make their way back into everyday life?
Or, is this an issue relating to our judicial system, which lets people out of prison, only to see them tagged with a scarlet letter that almost ensures they will remain outcasts with bleak prospects to gain a foothold for a normal life?
Maybe sex offenders should be given life sentences, which, of course, seems absurd for many of the violations, which are not the kind of crimes to send a community into a panic.
Clearly, some horrible sex-related crimes do happen and vicious criminals need to remain behind bars. But, if we as a society cannot find a way to monitor offenders' post-prison lives, and to move them forward rather than backward, what are we saying?
This is why we have a problem with Proposition 83, "Jessica's Law," on the Nov. 7 ballot. This measure is titled "the Sex Offenders, Sexually Violent Predators, Punishment, Residence Restrictions and Monitoring Initiative Statute," and is aimed at increasing sentences, requiring lifelong monitoring, and restricting where offenders can live.
This measure would cost hundreds of millions of dollars and would still not provide the kind of security we believe well-intentioned backers are seeking.
For one thing, it would, as we noted above, only move the problem around. Current law prohibits some sex offenders from residing within 1,320 feet of a school. This measure would expand the restriction to all registered sex offenders, expand the distance to 2,000 feet and add in parks.
This would just move the problem elsewhere. Sex offenders could live in rural areas, for instance, where they would be much more difficult to monitor.
In addition, the measure would require not just monitoring child molesters, but all felony sex offenders who are released from jail, including some who do not pose a serious risk. The potential yearly cost, according to the state Legislative Analyst's Office would be an estimated $100 million.
The expensive and cumbersome idea of using global positioning systems, or GPS, to monitor registered felony sex offenders would do nothing to keep offenders from removing the devices and perpetrating crimes.
Longer sentences would only further crowd prisons, and would put less dangerous offenders in with lifetime criminals.
Proposition 83 is a feel-good measure that would be too costly and would just move a problem around. It should be rejected by voters.
Prop 83 - Jessica’s law - revenge laws vs. justice
Contributed by: Richard Poirier on 9/27/2006
To persuade voters to ratify the U.S. Constitution, Alexander Hamilton / James Madison wrote in the Federalist Papers, 1787, "Justice is the end of government. It is the end of civil society." There are many values embodied in a legitimate government, but none are more foundational than justice. Justice does not end at the victim's door. It extends to all members of society, including those accused and convicted. The problem with obtaining justice in areas of conflicting interests is politicians and interest groups deliberately obfuscate issues with emotional appeals and misleading language. Prop 83 is a Revenge Law that violates due process and cruel and unusual punishment protections in the U.S. Constitution. Prop 83 does this by requiring involuntary indeterminate civil commitments at State Mental Hospitals after one completes their prison term and eliminates their current right to a civil incarceration review every two years by a jury trial. It denigrates human beings to the level of an animal by requiring electronic GPS monitoring for life for anyone convicted of a registerable sex offence. These new 1984 Big Brother-type repressive penalties are adorned with a cute, emotionally-laden title - Jessica's Law.
Under the guise of protecting children, the Department of Corrections is sponsoring this proposition to acquire more customers for its overcrowded prisons. Its motive is to justify building more prisons and expanding its politically powerful bureaucracy. In addition to initial new prison construction costs in the billions of dollars that the legislature has already wisely rejected, it will cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars annually with no limit on escalating cost. Consider claims that sentences are too short. Under current law: Penal Code, Sec. 261, consensual Statutory Rape, 3-8 yrears, Sec. 269, Aggravated Sexual Assault of a child under fourteen, 15 years to Life; Sec. 667.61, a 2nd Lewd Act conviction, life; Sec. 207, Kidnapping to commit sexual penetration, life. Now if you think sex offender laws could never apply to you or your children consider that a "Sexually Violent Offense" includes Spousal Rape, Sec. 262, defined as sexual intercourse against a person's will or if asleep, 3-8 years. Think of claims for leverage that could arise during a divorce. Existing law requires registration for life for any of these felony sex violations. Prop 83 changes the definition of "Sexually Violent Predator" from acts against two or more victims to one victim, which creates "Predator" status from the claim of only one person in the classic he said / she said. This is not what the public considers to be the definition of the term "Predator" in common usage. Thus, it creates confusion in the mind of the voter as to who is being targeted by this proposition.
Space limitations preclude covering all the reasons why Prop 83 with definitional enhancements is a dangerous step towards prosecutorial overreach, incarceration abuse and lifetime societal ostracism. The day we buy into arguments that people cannot learn their lesson in prison or control their impulses or that society should punish people for "likely" future acts is the day we relinquished our country's founding principle of justice. We cannot allow our disgust of sex offenders' behavior to cloud our judgment on sound public policies, any more than we can allow our offensive reaction to certain kinds of speech to weaken our defense of free speech. We cannot allow politicians to compete for "the toughest laws in the country" without sacrificing justice. As Jeanne S. Woodford, acting head of the state corrections dept., who resigned in frustration explained, "California criminal justice policy has developed haphazardly, through laws passed by politicians whose chief goal was to appear to be tougher on crime than their opponents."
Will Prop 83 benefit 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford who was raped and murdered last year? No, death cannot be reversed, but her tragic death offers insight. Consider the causational relationship between excessive penalties and some sex offenders' rational to avoid excessive punishment by killing their only witness - the victim. We shouldn't provide a rational for murder by failing to make penalties fit the seriousness of crimes. Perhaps Jessica Lunsford, JonBenet Ramsey and countless others would be alive today if society had the courage to demand reasonable prison terms based on justice instead of revenge. The problem with revenge is no matter how much one gets, it's never enough. In China, 550 B.C., castration, branding, slicing off the nose, chopping off the feet or toes, cutting leg tendons and breaking knee caps were common punishments. Barbaric public policy begets barbaric public behavior. By voting No on Prop 83 you will be preserving our civilized way of life and perhaps protecting yourself from being required to wear a GPS monitor the next time you get a traffic ticket to guarantee your court appearance. Future applications are endless. Finally, let's save hundreds of millions of dollars every year that would needlessly expand and reward the code-of-silence prison guards' union. Vote No on 83 and take the first step towards saving the life of the next Jessica.
Vote NO: End witch hunting
We are in the middle of a witch hunt. Salem style. We are riding on a crest of fear brought about by collective ignorance. Salem style. We are over-reacting to a perceived threat, not a real one. Salem style.
The subject is Proposition 83. We have been led to believe that children are in jeopardy in our schools and parks from strangers who prey upon the young. We are led to believe that anyone who was convicted of or pled to a charge of "child molestation" was then and is now a violent, depraved monster. Salem style.
The truth, if anyone is really interested, is that most acts that constitute molestation are of a non-violent nature. Let's look at some examples:
* We have laws that make it a crime to have sex with someone under 18. It makes no difference if both parties were willing participants. Under California law, two 17-year-old kids in the back of the Buick could be labeled sex offenders.
* California Penal Code section 647.6 is a misdemeanor. It covers acts that "annoy or molest" a child. It does not require any sexual touching or intent. Conviction requires registration.
* A lewd or lascivious act, under California law, includes a touching of a person with intent to sexually arouse the "toucher" or the "touchee." Many such "crimes" involve only minor touching of an arm, leg, ear, nose, forehead, etc. In many cases this involve family members.
The truth, if anyone is really interested, is that this proposition makes no distinctions between the violent predator and the indiscretions of youth or the single aberrant behavior of an otherwise "normal" person.
We have been led to believe that all people convicted of some sexual offense must be corralled and watched and hounded for the rest of their lives along with the truly violent, mental ill, sexual offenders that do, unfortunately, exist.
The truth, if anyone is really interested, is that the effect on those who are nonviolent and rehabilitated who have lived for 10, 20, 30 and more years as competent, caring, law-abiding citizens will be to force them to move out of their homes, to endure 24/7 supervision, and probably cause them to lose their source of income. All because we have been taught to be afraid. Very afraid. Salem style.
We are being asked to spend more than $500 million to protect who? The children in our schools and parks are the least likely to be subjected to this acts in those places. Is GPS a good idea for sexually violent people? Maybe. But this proposition takes away the right of the people who can best determine that to do so.
Be afraid, very afraid, of the sound bite that makes this proposition sound logical. The truth, if anyone is really interested, is that this proposition is a witch hunt at the high cost of $500 million. Salem style.
Gael Mueller is a Bakersfield defense attorney.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Jessica's Law far too broad; No on Prop 83
By: North County Times Opinion Staff -
Our view: Prop. 83 based on fear, not fact about sex offenders
Protecting children from sexual predators is a good idea, and that's the intent of Proposition 83, or Jessica's Law.
But beneath the emotionally charged rhetoric, Prop. 83 is a prime example of why Californians should reject unwise initiatives and instead focus our efforts on passing thoughtful, effective laws. Prop. 83 is too vague, redundant, costly and ineffective.
Prop. 83 would widen the protective circle we draw around our children, prohibiting registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of schools and parks. Pushing sex offenders farther away from places where children gather sounds good, but the underlying assumptions ring false.
Sex offenders in California are already banned from living within 1,320 feet of a school; those designated as "high risk" offenders must live more than a half-mile, or 2,640 feet, away. Tacking on an extra 680 feet to the lower threshold would only make those intent on harming children walk another block or drive a few more moments.
Prop. 83 would push many sex offenders out of urban areas ---- where there are more police officers to keep an eye on them ---- and into rural and suburban neighborhoods, where schools, parks and law enforcement are more spread out.
It also assumes sexual predators prey mainly on children who are total strangers, when we know such headline-grabbing cases are the exception, not the rule. According to the state Department of Justice, strangers commit less than 10 percent of sex crimes against children. Most children who are victims of sexual abuse are attacked by folks they know ---- parents, baby sitters or relatives.
What's more, the state has already beefed up current law. On Sept. 20, Gov. Schwarzenegger signed a bill that prohibits sex offenders from loitering near schools and parks.
Keeping better track of where registered sex offenders are located also sounds like a good idea, and Prop. 83 would require them to wear Global Positioning System devices for life so police can track their location via satellite. But this provision is so broad it will be too expensive and spread the resources needed to track dangerous sex offenders too thin.
Prop. 83's vague language doesn't clearly differentiate between most sex offenders and those at highest risk of repeating their crimes. That means the law could be used to track all 90,000 sex offenders in the state ---- even those convicted of less-threatening crimes like indecent exposure.
The state's Legislative Analyst's Office estimates this high-tech monitoring alone will cost California taxpayers at least $100 million a year. Where this, and the other hundreds of millions Jessica's Law would cost, will come from isn't explained, so taxpayers are left in the dark about whether the state or local agencies will have to foot the bill.
To make the case for such a vast expansion of the police state, proponents are fond of saying that sex offenders have higher recidivism rates than other criminals. That's just not true.
According to the U.S. Justice Department, only 3.5 percent of sex criminals are rearrested within three years of leaving prison. Compare that to 79 percent of car thieves, 75 percent of larcenists, 74 percent of burglars and 70 percent of robbers were rearrested in that same span.
Following those numbers, we would have a better chance of catching repeat criminals if we forced convicted car thieves to wear GPS anklets and barred them from living near parking lots.
Of course, our kids are more precious than our cars. We need to do what we can to keep those 3.5 percent of sex offenders from recommitting crimes and, again, the state has already stepped in. The law the governor signed Sept. 20 establishes a system to identify high-risk offenders and place them under satellite surveillance.
In Iowa, the first state to adopt Jessica's Law, the prosecutors who supported it now say the law is too broad, costs too much and isn't helping. In a February report, they said many of the Hawkeye State's sex offenders have "gone underground," and the broad language is straining resources that could be used to track ex-cons who pose the most risk.
Jessica's Law sounds good ---- but that's all. California needs more targeted, effective laws based on facts, not another reactionary initiative that will cost the state millions while adding little to the state's protections for children.
Dad pushes for Jessica's law
Mark Lunsford, above, shows a tattoo Wednesday of his daughter, Jessica.
Below, state Sen. Jeff Denham holds up a tracking device for sex offenders
at a Ceres event supporting Proposition 83.
By SUSAN HERENDEEN
Last Updated: October 12, 2006, 06:42:46 AM PDT
Mark Lunsford, whose daughter's rape and murder inspired Jessica's law in Florida and a batch of similar initiatives across the nation, came to Ceres on Wednesday to issue a warning.
Pass Proposition 83 to protect children, he said as he stood with state Sen. Jeff Denham, R-Merced, and other elected officials in front of Virginia Parks Elementary School.
"The person who murdered my daughter was able to slip through cracks in the system," Lunsford said. "It doesn't bring my daughter back, but it could very well keep your daughter here."
The initiative — dubbed Jessica's law — is one of 13 propositions on the Nov. 7 ballot, and it echoes failed legislation sponsored by Denham.
Proposition 83 would require lifetime electronic monitoring of felony sex offenders and ban them from living near schools or parks, lengthen prison terms and make possession of child pornography a felony.
A poll by the Field Institute, conducted in August, found widespread support, with 76 percent of respondents saying they would vote for the initiative.
According to California's legislative analyst, the cost of the initiative would grow to about $200 million annually after 10 years.
Denham said stricter satellite tracking is needed because one-quarter of California's 87,000 sex offenders are missing, even though they are supposed to register with local authorities each time they move.
He acknowledged that a legal challenge is likely if voters approve the initiative because critics would challenge the constitutionality of zoning restrictions designed to keep sex offenders from children.
"We feel this is something that will stand up in court," Denham said.
In written statements, the group argues that Proposition 83 is too broad and too costly because it requires electronic tracking of all sex offenders, even those convicted of nonviolent offenses years ago.
The group said residency rules would force sex offenders into rural regions that are less equipped to deal with them and notes that sex offenders often prey on people they know, rather than strangers.
Supporters of the initiative said the new rules would apply to sex offenders who are sent to prison.
8,000 convictions per year
Statewide, about 8,000 people are convicted of felony sex crimes each year; 39 percent of them are sent to prison, while the others go to jail or are supervised on probation.
Denham said the notion that rural areas such as the Central Valley could
become a dumping ground for sex offenders is a myth, because parolees are
released to the county where they were convicted.
Christianson said he is particularly pleased with a provision that would
close a loophole related to Internet predators, by letting law enforcement
officers act as decoys to catch predators.
De Werk said the proposal is long overdue and will not drain law enforcement resources, as critics contend.
"We will make the resources available," he said. "It's about time that we start taking care of business."
Campaign stops around state
Lunsford, who is traveling the state with the Yes on 83 campaign, made stops in San Diego, Los Angeles and Orange County this week and had plans to visit Sacramento and the Central Coast.
His daughter, 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford, was kidnapped from her bedroom
in February 2005.
Three months later, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush signed legislation that increased sentences, made school grounds off limits and required lifetime electronic monitoring of sex offenders.
Lunsford — a truck driver from Homosassa, a rural town of about 2,500 people, north of Tampa — said 20 states have passed laws in his daughter's name.
The man accused of killing Jessica is awaiting trial. He had been staying in a mobile home about 150 yards from the Lunsfords' home, but failed to register with local police.
"Instead of them stalking our children, let's stalk them," Lunsford said.
Bee staff writer Susan Herendeen can be reached at 578-2338 or email@example.com .
Sex Offender Colony Proposed if Proposition Passes
7:45 PM PDT, September 29, 2006
Sacramento, Calif. — A registered sex offender who says he would be forced to move from his San Francisco home under a California November ballot initiative wants to form a colony for himself and others who may be displaced if the measure passes.
Jake Goldenflame, an author who also leads support groups for sex felons, said Proposition 83 threatens to create chaos and wandering bands of rootless men by banning ex-offenders from living near schools and parks.
In a letter mailed this week to Attorney General Bill Lockyer and lawmakers, he suggested creating a place of refuge for sex offenders, perhaps at a former military base. He also asked that the Legislature delay enforcement of the initiative -- which enjoys a strong lead in the polls -- until such a colony could be established.
"It's very likely that this measure will pass, and when it does, sex offenders will face desperation," said Goldenflame, 69, who served a prison term of five years in the 1980s for molesting his daughter. "Most of those facing banishment will either go underground or go homeless. I'm trying to offer a humane alternative."
The law's chief sponsor, Republican state Sen. George Runner, called the proposal unnecessary. Runner said it was never his intent for the initiative to uproot released sex offenders living in the community, though the measure's language does not specify that.
"If someone on their own wants to build a place for sex offenders to go live ... then have at it," Runner said. "But this idea is based on a faulty assumption that everybody will have to move. We don't think government can go in and kick someone out of his house."
Proposition 83 would give California some of the nation's strictest laws governing sex offenders, increasing prison and parole terms for many crimes. Its most controversial provision would bar released offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park and permit local governments to make other locations, such as libraries or public swimming pools, off limits.
The initiative also would require released sex offenders to wear an electronic tracking device for life, regardless of their crime or level of dangerousness.
The measure, dubbed Jessica's Law by proponents, resembles laws that have been adopted or are under consideration in numerous other states. The trend was fueled in part by the death of the law's namesake, Jessica Lunsford, who was kidnapped and murdered by a sex offender in Florida in 2005.
Proponents, including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, say the law is a necessary crackdown on a group of felons often connected with some of society's most gut-wrenching crimes. Runner says parents deserve the right to know that their children will not walk by the home of a released sex offender on the way to school.
Critics say there are no studies showing that banning where sex offenders live leads to a reduction in crime. They point to other states, such as Iowa, where similar restrictions have driven many offenders underground, making them harder to monitor.
Other initiative foes say a package of bills recently signed into law by Schwarzenegger makes Proposition 83 unnecessary. The bills lengthen prison and parole terms for many crimes, and require electronic monitoring for sex offenders as long as they are on parole. One measure also forbids released sex offenders from loitering near schools and parks, rather than prohibiting them from living in such locations.
A spokesman for Lockyer said the attorney general had not yet received the colony proposal. Spokesman Nathan Barankin said that any decision on whether to delay enforcement of a ballot initiative would require legislative action. Otherwise, police would be required to enforce the law immediately after the election.
Barankin also said Goldenflame may be "jumping the gun" by assuming he and thousands of other sex offenders already out of prison will have to move, when in fact it may be interpreted to apply only to future parolees.
Stanford University Professor Robert Weisberg said that issue -- which category of offenders would be covered by the initiative -- "appears to be a humongous legal ambiguity."
Weisberg also said that by raising the idea of a colony, Goldenflame has highlighted possible constitutional defects a court might find in the initiative.
"If you accept the argument that this law would uproot and banish a certain group of people, then that has an unconstitutional flavor to it," Weisberg said. "It's hard to say exactly what is it -- an Eighth Amendment, cruel and unusual punishment claim? -- but it certainly raises questions."
Goldenflame, who holds a law degree, said he is convinced a court would interpret the initiative's language as affecting him and others currently required to register with local law enforcement as a sex offender. He said he has checked permissible neighborhoods in San Francisco and found none where he could live, "except maybe at the top of the Transamerica Pyramid."
While Goldenflame said he has the means to move elsewhere, he predicted many ex-convicts would not, leaving them a choice of defying the measure, violating laws requiring them to register, or becoming homeless.
In all, there are more than 85,000 registered sex offenders in California today. About 4,200 are released from prison each year, corrections officials said.
No on 83: Sex offenders dumped in rural areas
Last Updated: September 27, 2006, 04:30:26 AM PDT
Sex offenders who prey on children are every parent's nightmare, and understandably so. But fear and other emotions must be set aside in weighing whether Proposition 83 really will make children substantially safer.
The proposition would increase prison sentences for sex offenders; require lifelong monitoring for some offenders and further restrict where registered sex offenders could live. Those sound appealing, as does the initiative's title — the Sex Offenders, Sexually Violent Predators, Punishment, Residence Restrictions and Monitoring Initiative Statute.
But what would it achieve? We have three serious concerns:
The initiative clearly is aimed at stranger abductions. Supporters invoke the name of Jessica Lunsford, the 9-year-old Florida girl who was kidnapped, assaulted and buried alive by a registered sex offender. But nothing in this initiative would prevent the great many molestations that are committed by adults who know or even live with their victims.
Furthermore, a predator intent on doing harm simply could remove his monitoring device and commit crimes.
The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office estimates that the initiative could cost hundreds of millions of dollars in higher prison and mental-hospital costs and in lifelong monitoring of paroled offenders via the global positioning system.
Extremely dangerous sexual predators, including repeat rapists and criminals who sexually assault children 14 years and younger, already face sentences of 15 or 25 years to life in prison. Longer sentences for less dangerous offenders — possessors of child pornography, for example — only will crowd already overcrowded prisons further and drive up out-of-control prison costs.
The initiative imposes lifelong monitoring for registered felony sex offenders, not just child molesters. Opponents note correctly that this would mean monitoring, at a high cost, tens of thousands of ex-prisoners who don't pose any serious risk, leaving fewer resources available for high-risk offenders who need to be watched. The legislative analyst says this cost alone could amount to $100 million — and it isn't spelled out whether the financial burden would fall to the state or counties.
Finally, the measure mandates tougher restrictions on where all registered sex offenders can live. Currently, a small percentage, mostly those who have committed crimes against children, cannot reside within 1,320 feet, or a quarter-mile, of a school. This initiative would expand it to all registered sex offenders, add parks to the restriction and expand the radius to 2,000 feet.
In other states, such laws pushed sex offenders into sparsely populated rural and suburban neighborhoods. One state map suggests that neither Los Angeles nor San Francisco would end up with any sex offenders living there; the offenders would be pushed into rural regions — such as our valley and the foothills.
One valley legislator characterized it as "predator dumping." The Los Angeles district attorney told the Los Angeles Times that he was losing his enthusiasm for the initiative because of its potential burden on rural counties. "It makes you wonder if it's a false promise based upon a false premise," Steve Cooley said.
In short, for all its emotional appeal, Proposition 83 will be costly and could be harmful to our region. And because it is an initiative, it will be nearly impossible to amend it to fix these shortcomings. For all those reasons, we recommend a "no" vote on Proposition 83.
Sunday SEPTEMBER 24, 2006 Last modified: Saturday, September 23, 2006 12:32 AM PDT
The Hi-Desert Star's view: Law could put rural kids at risk
On ballots this Nov. 7, Proposition 83, called Jessica's Law, is a well-intentioned campaign to toughen punishments for and protect children from sex offenders.
But one provision, by protecting children who live in big cities, could endanger youth who live in less populated areas like the Hi-Desert.
If passed by voters, Prop 83 would ban all convicted sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of schools or parks anywhere in California.
The bill also allows local governments to declare more locations off limits to sex offenders.
Jessica's Law will make it difficult for registered sex offenders to find homes in densely populated urban areas. A review of a map provided by state lawmakers reveals that offenders won't legally be able to live almost anywhere in San Francisco; most of urban Los Angeles will be off limits, too.
So where are they going to go?
It's likely more sex offenders will move to less populated rural areas, like the Morongo Basin. Here, it will be less easy to keep track of offenders. There are fewer law officers here and an area like the Basin does not have as many support resources such as job services and mental-health clinics to treat or monitor sex offenders.
State Sen. Dean Florez, whose district is in a mostly rural region of Central California, calls Prop 83 “predator dumping.”
He could be right.
Prop 83 contains some excellent provisions. It lengthens prison sentences and parole for violent sex offenders.
It would make possession of child pornography a felony, although Governor Schwarzenegger already has signed a law that does the same thing.
But it could also mean that rural children are endangered by an influx of sex offenders.
It looks likely that Jessica's Law is going to pass. Polls have found it to be popular among voters.
If it does become law, the state cannot be allowed to strand the Hi-Desert with scores of new residents with dark pasts.
The Hi-Desert already has too many sex offenders who are out of compliance with their registration - in other words, whose whereabouts are unknown by law enforcement.
The Megan's Law Web site indicates that of the sex offenders listed under that law, four in Yucca Valley, one in the Landers and Johnson Valley area, one in Morongo Valley and two in Twentynine Palms are missing. Officers don't know where they are. Eight may seem like a small number, but eight missing sex offenders are eight too many. What will happen if law officers must keep tabs on many new sex offenders forced into the area?
As it stands now, the Morongo Basin does not have the resources to cope with Prop 83. If - or when - it passes, the state and especially the bill's sponsors in the legislature must make sure our children are as safe as those in the big city.
Governor signs law cracking down on sex offenders
By Michael Gardner
2:51 p.m. September 20, 2006
SACRAMENTO – Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation Wednesday
that will shackle high-risk sex offenders with satellite technology to
track them at all times and also prohibit child predators from getting
jobs as shopping mall Santas.
At a Capitol ceremony, Schwarzenegger hailed the measures as significant crackdowns.
“Each of these laws will help make our state safer and make it tougher on the predators who want to create victims out of innocent Californians,” he said.
Taking advantage of satellite technology, Senate Bill 1178 will require high-risk sex offenders to wear global positioning systems so they can be tracked 24 hours a day while on parole.
“GPS technology will help keep our children safe by arming law enforcement with a 24/7 eye in the sky to make sure that dangerous sex offenders will think twice before committing such heinous acts,” said Sen. Jackie Speier, D-Daly City, who carried the measure.
According to Speier, there are 87,000 registered sex offenders in California.
Lieu's legislation, AB 1900, will close what he described as a “glaring loophole” in current law that bars those convicted of sex crimes against children from being hired or volunteering for positions that involve children.
The new legislation would expand the prohibition to include independent contractors, such as shopping mall Santas or photographers.
“We need to keep sexual predators away from our most vulnerable populations,” said Lieu, the father of two.
Attorney General Bill Lockyer, who sponsored Lieu's measure, said: “This was one of those areas of law that fail the commonsense test. If a company cannot employ a sex offender to work with children, then offenders certainly should not be able to work with them by becoming their own employer.”
Schwarzenegger also signed Senate Bill 1128, a far-reaching measure that will: increase prison terms for child rape, toughen penalties for child pornography, expand areas that are off-limits to sex offenders, double parole time for violent sexual offenses, tighten existing law to allow police to use on-line decoys to catch Internet predators, and require those convicted of sex crimes to undergo treatment while in prison.
The governor also signed AB 2263 that will require registered sex offenders to disclose their status when applying for a job or volunteer work that involves physical contact with children. Current law only requires that disclosure if the job or volunteer work involves unsupervised time with young people.
Posted on Fri, Sep. 22, 2006
Cast a `no' vote on sex-offender proposition
Mercury News Editorial
Based on a Field Poll last month, Proposition 83, which would put additional restrictions and heavier penalties on sex felons, would appear to be a shoo-in Nov. 7. That would be unfortunate because it's grounded in fears, not on facts.
Proposition 83 has two main provisions. It would require anyone convicted of a felony sex offense to wear a satellite tracking device for life. And it would ban a sex felon from living within 2,000 feet -- about two-fifths of a mile -- from a school, park or other public place that a local government chooses to designate.
Before going with their gut -- after all, who wants any felon in their neighborhood? -- voters should give weight to Proposition 83's costs and listen seriously to second thoughts coming from Iowa.
Iowa was one of the first states to adopt Jessica's Law, which Proposition 83 models, after the death of Jessica Lunsford. She was the 9-year-old Florida girl who was murdered, allegedly by a convicted sex offender working as a laborer at her school.
Now, the prosecutors in Iowa who campaigned for the 2,000-foot protection zone acknowledge there's no correlation between children's safety and a felon-free zone (less than 10 percent of sexual abuse is done by strangers). But there have been unexpected consequences. Nearly all downtown areas in Des Moines are now off-limits to sex offenders because of where schools and parks are located; the same would be true in Los Angeles, San Francisco, downtown San Jose and most urban areas.
Pushing sex felons out of cities forces them into more suburban and rural areas. Doing so denies them low-cost housing, job opportunities and transportation. The result, according to the Iowa County Attorneys Association, is that more will go underground and fail to register; some have become homeless. Some sex offenders have married; the ban harms spouses and families.
The association concluded Jessica's Law created more problems than it solved, and favors repeal.
It makes sense to put Global Positioning System devices on high-risk sex offenders to track real-time movements or have a record of where they've been. It's used in California to monitor 1,000 of them, and more will be added with the signing into law this week of SB 1178, sponsored by Sen. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, which makes permanent a pilot sex-offender GPS program.
But equipping every sex felon with a GPS device is expensive and diverts attention from those who need the most monitoring. The state legislative analyst projects the cost at $100 million a year within a decade, possibly more, depending if Proposition 83 is interpreted to apply only to new felons or to all 90,000 who must now enroll in the state sex felon registry.
Proposition 83 also would extend parole, now three to five years, to as long as 10 years for some sex offenders. And it would also enable the state to commit especially dangerous and non-cooperative high-risk sex offenders to indefinite stays in a secure mental hospital after prison. These are worthwhile provisions, and the Legislature should pass them into law next year.
But voters should heed the warnings from Iowa and vote no on Proposition 83.
Sep 22, 2006 3:25 pm US/Pacific
Jessica's Law Sparks Heated Political Debate
(AP) SACRAMENTO A ballot initiative that would give California some of the nation's toughest restrictions on sexual predators is backed by both major candidates for governor and by three-quarters of likely voters in an August Field Poll.
Yet even supporters say Proposition 83, the so-called "Jessica's Law," is a work in progress that could create a number of complications. The initiative could make it nearly impossible for paroled sex offenders to find homes in cities and could push more of them to rural areas.
Meanwhile, the state budget could be stretched by hundreds of millions of dollars in extra annual spending, primarily for increased monitoring of parolees and for building and staffing more state mental hospitals.
Proposition 83 is named for Jessica Lunsford, a 9-year-old Florida girl who was kidnapped, raped and suffocated by a convicted sex offender last year.
It would lengthen sentences and parole terms for violent and habitual sex offenders, make more sexually violent predators eligible for indefinite commitments to state mental hospitals and require lifetime satellite monitoring of offenders convicted of felonies.
The provision that has sparked the most heated debate is a requirement prohibiting registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park. That effectively bars parolees from living in many of California's cities.
"There's virtually nowhere within certain cities where these sex offenders could reside," said Liisa Lawson Stark, a lobbyist for the California League of Cities and its 478 members. "You will have an over-concentration of sex offenders in rural areas" that lack rehabilitation services and law enforcement supervision.
Nevertheless, "some of the public safety benefits override the flaws," Stark said, saying the league had endorsed the ballot measure.
Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley said he has similar concerns but is supporting the measure after concluding that the initiative improves existing laws.
"You've got to take some good with the bad," he said.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger recently signed six bills into law that contain many of the same components of Jessica's Law. Opponents say the new laws make Proposition 83 unnecessary, while supporters say combining the new laws with the ballot initiative would give California the nation's toughest protections against sex offenders.
The new laws boost penalties for child rapists, child pornographers and Internet predators, while requiring satellite tracking of high-risk sex offenders during their parole or probation period. They also prohibit child molesters from employing minors or working near them, and create a board to help track dangerous parolees.
Jessica's law would expand several of those restrictions. It would require a far greater number of sex offenders to wear satellite-tracked monitoring devices for the rest of their lives and impose significant new limits on where they can live.
The scope of the initiative's impact largely hinges on whether it would apply retroactively to the state's roughly 90,000 registered sex offenders.
State Sen. George Runner, a Republican from Lancaster who wrote the initiative with his wife, Assemblywoman Sharon Runner, said they intended the measure's satellite-monitoring and residency restrictions to affect only those released from prison in the future.
California records about 8,000 felony sex convictions annually, about 40 percent of which result in prison time. George Runner said the effects and costs would take years to be felt.
He said legislators can use a two-thirds vote to amend the law to make it clear it would apply only to future releases.
Moreover, he said legislators could clarify that the authors meant to prohibit offenders from living near playgrounds, not other parks and open spaces that could make it difficult for offenders to live anywhere within city boundaries.
"We're perfectly fine dealing with follow-up language," George Runner said. "The core issue is we just believe these people need to be sent away to prison longer."
The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office estimates that satellite tracking would cost about $100 million a year within 10 years, with some of the money collected from offenders based on their ability to pay.
Sending more sexually violent predators to state mental hospitals could cost another $100 million or more each year, while keeping more sex offenders in prison longer likely would cost "tens of millions of dollars annually," not including construction costs for new prisons and hospitals, the analyst's office said.
Steps to restrict where paroled molesters can live already have been taken in some cities.
When officials in the Sacramento suburb of Folsom learned last spring that a paroled sex offender could be housed on prison grounds, they adopted an ordinance barring sex offenders from lingering within 100 yards of schools, day care centers, playgrounds, parks, swimming pools or video arcades.
"I've got a daughter," Folsom Police Capt. Larry Saunders said. "If you can't lock them up, then the closer you can monitor them with GPS or other modern technology, the better."
Proposition 83 would let communities set their own residency requirements, but the state Legislature might have to rein in that power if the initiative passes, said law enforcement lobbyist Nick Warner.
Lawmakers may need to amend the initiative to give judges or law enforcement agencies discretion to allow a sex offender to live within restricted zones in some cases.
"An aggressive local government could easily draw a boundary around their entire city," said Warner, who represents associations for sheriffs deputies, probation officers and rape investigators supporting the initiative.
Finding homes for sex offenders is a problem with or without Proposition 83, Warner said.
Existing law prohibits parolees from living within a quarter-mile of a school, with a half-mile restriction for high-risk sex offenders. Proposition 83 would enlarge that restriction to include parks and add a larger population of offenders.
The Runners sought the initiative after a similar legislative package backed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger failed last year. It includes portions of 24 bills making 399 statutory changes, by the count of the California Coalition Against Sexual Assaults.
The coalition, which represents 66 rape crisis centers that aided about 30,000 victims last year, is a primary opponent of Jessica's Law.
"The magnitude of this is just huge," coalition spokesman Robert Coombs said. "The number of unintended consequences that are not only potential but expected, we just can't bear this."
He said satellite tracking gives a false sense of security, while residency restrictions would drive more sex offenders underground. Moreover, he said roughly 90 percent of children are victimized at home by somebody they know rather than by a stranger at a park, school or other public location.
Runner responded that a quarter of sex offenders already violate the state's residency reporting law, so shackling ex-convicts with GPS bracelets should help.
California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, representing defense attorneys,
argues that the effort is wasted on lower-level offenders. The group says
Jessica's Law would impose the residency restrictions and lifetime monitoring
on first-time and nonviolent offenders.
(© 2006 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material
may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)
Jessica's Law . . . No Way!