November 4, 2010

Residency restrictions illegal, Calif judge rules

"Court is not a potted plant"

Breaking news from the Los Angeles Times:

Saying sex offenders are being forced to choose between prison and homelessness, a Los Angeles judge issued an opinion this week blocking enforcement of provisions a state law restricting how close those offenders can live from parks or schools.

Superior Court Judge Peter Espinoza issued the 10-page ruling after four registered sex offenders petitioned the court, arguing that the legislation known as Jessica's Law was unconstitutional.

He said the court had received about 650 habeas corpus petitions raising similar legal issues, and that hundreds more were being prepared....

"The court is not a 'potted plant' and need not sit idly by in the face of immediate, ongoing and significant violations of parolee constitutional rights," Espinoza wrote.

Proposition 83, which is better known as Jessica's Law and was overwhelmingly passed by state voters in 2006, imposes strict residency requirements on sex offenders, including requirements forbidding them from residing within 2,000 feet of any public or private school or park where children regularly gather….

"Rather than protecting public safety, it appears that the sharp rise in homelessness rates in sex offenders on active parole in Los Angeles County actually undermines public safety," wrote Espinoza, who is the supervising judge of the Los Angeles County criminal courts. "The evidence presented suggests that despite lay belief, a sex offender parolee's residential proximity to a school or park where children regularly gather does not bear on the parolee's likelihood to commit a sexual offense against a child." …

New report on parolee recidivism

Meanwhile, California's Department of Corrections has released a new report on recidivism among parolees.

The state's recidivism rates remain among the highest in the United States, the report found, with more than two-thirds of paroled prisoners back behind bars within three years. Younger men and those with shorter sentences had the highest rates.

Almost three in four new imprisonments were for parole violations rather than new crimes, emphasizing the need for alternatives to incarceration for technical violations.

The bright lining is in the recidivism rates of sex offenders, such as those in Los Angeles who cannot find a place to live.

Parolees flagged as sex offenders had lower recidivism rates than other prisoners. And only about 5 percent of those who were sent back to prison had committed a new sex crime. The broad majority were returned for parole violations or non-sexual crimes.

These low sexual recidivism rates are consistent with correctional data from elsewhere in the United States. Unfortunately, as the Los Angeles judge alluded to, thanks to a few rare but highly publicized cases (remember the "black swans"?), the public has not gotten this message.


Anonymous said...

Blessings on the California judge who has the wisdom to see residency restrictions for what they really are--and aren't--and the courage to act upon what he knows. And good news also from California about the recidivism of SO. This supports what other reputable studies and statistics have been saying for a long time now. How long will it be, though, before everyone gets it?

Neuroskeptic said...

On a related note, have you heard of this British guy?

Karen Franklin, Ph.D. said...

No, I had not heard of him. Thanks for the link. "Every waking hour" thinking about pedophiles, huh? He must be a real peachy fellow to spend time with. I guess the UK doesn't have government registries like we have here in the USA? If it did, Wittwer would not have to be obsessing. But I agree with the experts cited in the story who say "naming and shaming" is counterproductive, can force sex offenders underground, and can lead to vigilante violence. I wrote a post back in 2007 on vigilanteism ( More recently, a 78-year-old man in Florida was beaten to death with a baseball bat because he had the same name as someone on the state register (see Hooligans tend to react violently, without knowing all of the facts.

Neuroskeptic said...

No, we don't. Well, we do have a registry, the Sex Offender's Register, but it's not open to the public. The police are allowed to give details to local people e.g. teachers, youth workers, etc. if they feel it's important but the register is closed.

matthewhobbs444 said...

If there is to be a registry at all, only law enforcement agencies should have access, and only the 5.3% that is considered a danger to society should be on it. Proposition 83 needs to be revisited. The "good people" who voted it in, need to reconsider the ramifications the law has caused on thousands of innocent people, their families, and mostly the children. How can one continue to condone these laws, and restrictions, when the facts are THEY DO NOTHING TO PROTECT CHILDREN, and these laws/restrictions, actually set up families for failure.

Anonymous said...

I've had some spare time, so was searching through the "memos" and "proposals from commissions" on facts that pertain to my state's budget for 2012. We have no money, people need to read the numbers for themselves. We don't have enough money to continue food programs, or emergency medical programs. We don't have enough to keep on paying cops. The states are falling apart. When you get way down the list of priorities, and the commissions come to "sex offender registry," they just scoff and say, "we are going to have to do away with this registry." Experts are well aware, the registry has no correlation with protecting children. It is a political football which politicians used to get votes from fearful parents who don't have time to read the facts. Every fact that I have found proves that the sex registry is counter productive, and it takes away money from programs which are productive in this time of crisis.

Anonymous said...

My son has a couple of misdemeanor indecent exposure charges. He thought he was alone, no one saw anything except his butt. No one has ever seen his genitals, he thought he was in private although he was outdoors. That was four years ago. Today he lives as a designated high risk to re-offend criminal according to the Static-99 risk assessment tool that can only "moderately predicts," says the author Karl Hanesn, what future crimes a person will commit. The time and resources the state spends on him is enormous, GPS, check ups and phone calls. He is forced to attend 6 hours of counseling per week. This consists of a small group- two child molesters and three major child porn distributors - for the next three years. (Talk about mindf***ing). His life is pretty much over as far as opportunities, reintegration to society, places to live, and the like. He does not even qualify to be on Megan's Database. He is only 26. He paid it debt to society by going to jail. His punishment has gone so far beyond his crime, it is life crippling.

I can only applaud this judge's decision of stepping up and doing what is right. Judge Espinoza is on the Governor appointed Sex Offender Management Board. They have recommended against residency restrictions in a report last year.

Take a look at any sex offender map and you will see that child molesters live right next to schools. Why? Their crime happened prior to Jessica's Law. I can only shake my head in disbelief of how this current system of managing small time sex offenders using so many resources to protect the children, yet non are spent on the child molester who lives next to the school.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, it is entirely possible, depending on several factors, that the person on the registry you are seeing designated as a child molester was, when the offense occurred, an 18 year old young man who engaged in sexual activity with his 16 year old girlfriend.

“Human Rights Watch found that only 5 states provided enough understandable information on online registries for the public to be able to interpret the charge and the age of both the registrant and the victim. This may be one of the reasons that the public incorrectly assumes that everyone on the registry is listed because of an offense against a child.”

Anonymous said...

I have been attempting to say this for a while now. There is NO! true science / evidence anywhere that the residence location will cause another sexual crime but,there is is now such evidence showing that it will and does cause for persons convicted of as sex crime to be restricted regarding to his or her residence location to become homeless.
I guess thats why they call them "Judges"

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