Jessica’s Law Restrictions Eased

Officials in California made an announcement regarding Jessica’s Law on Thursday that has some citizens in an uproar.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation will no longer impose the blanket restriction that forbids sex offenders with residing within 2,000 feet of a park or school. This blanket provision covers all sex offenders, regardless of whether their crime involved children.

The CDCR wants to make it clear that their lack of enforcement will not pertain to every sex offender. Any that is deemed high-risk or those who victimized any child under the age of 14 will still be strictly prohibited from living near a school. In other cases, the parolee will be individually assessed before the provision is enacted.

This change in thinking comes nine years after the adoption of the law which has made it extremely difficult for convicted sex offenders to find housing. According to the California Supreme Court, the provision violates constitutional rights of those living in San Diego County. Due to the strict law, many of those sex offenders released from jail are living on the street.

According to a memo sent out by the CDCR, residency restrictions should only be established when there is a “nexus to their commitment offense, criminal history and/or future criminality.” The CDCR will be specifying how conditions for parolees currently living in the community should be modified.

Now retired Justice Marvin R. Baxter wrote that the rules “increased the incidence of homelessness among them, and hindered their access to medical treatment, drug and alcohol dependency services, psychological counseling and other rehabilitative social services available to all parolees.”

Just three years after Jessica’s Law was passed, the incidence of homelessness among parolees increased by 23 percent. These parolees are more difficult to supervise and pose a greater risk to the public than those that are able to secure housing.

According to the court, the provision does not advance the goal of protecting children or the pubic, and ultimately infringes upon parolee’s constitutional rights to be free of oppressive government action.

For now, some new parolees will be free of the provision, while others will be permitted to seek housing that is affordable and available. How those already on parole will be handled remains to be seen. Any member of the public who is concerned about residing in the same neighborhood as sex offenders is advised to sign up for notification registries.

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