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Bills seek to protect sex-offender victims

Posted: September 30, 2011 1:30 a.m.
Updated: September 30, 2011 1:30 a.m.

Five new bills aimed at protecting victims of sex offenders and society in general were signed into law Thursday, and are being received locally with cautious optimism.

“It’s common knowledge that pedophiles are likely to re-offend,” said Caroline Mason, whose child was victimized by a local sex offender who was recently released from prison.

She was skeptical of the new laws’ promises.

On Thursday, Gov. Jerry Brown signed five bills into law affecting sex offenders and their victims.

One requires out-of-state sex offenders to register when they move to California.

Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, said her bill will help authorities track sex offenders, such as Phillip Garrido, who was convicted of rape in Nevada but moved to California after his release from prison.

He was convicted this year of kidnaping Jaycee Dugard and holding her captive for 18 years at his Antioch home.

The movements of convicted sex offenders became a hotly debated topic for residents of the Santa Clarita Valley recently when the unannounced prison release of a sex offender shocked local victims and their families.

One of those victims was Mason’s child.

Officials with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, responding to the published concerns of Mason and others, moved to contain the offender, who was already required to wear a GPS locator.

They barred him from the area around a victim’s home and six other Santa Clarita Valley locations, including several houses of worship.

Containment model
Another one of the bills passed Thursday closes a loophole in state law that lets some violent sexual predators avoid parole supervision when they are released into the community. Others aid sexual-assault victims and treatment providers.

One of the bills, AB 813, promises to give more bite to Chelsea’s Law, which provides for enhanced sentencing for predators who commit forcible sex crimes against children, including the “one strike” possibility of life in prison without parole for the most egregious crimes.

Chelsea’s Law, passed last year, is already being lauded for leading to charges against 19 people.

Its author, Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, R-San Diego, submitted AB 813 in an effort to ensure that components of Chelsea’s Law, namely the implementation of a statewide containment model approach to sex offender management, are implemented.

The governor signed Fletcher’s latest bill Thursday following unanimous, bipartisan votes by both houses of the Legislature.

“New laws only work if they are fully implemented and utilized,” Fletcher said in a news release.

The containment model, which is designed to significantly reduce the tendency for sex offenders to re-offend, focuses on increased supervision, polygraph testing and psychological examination of paroled sex offenders, as well as increased collaboration among agencies who provide these services.

But Mason said Thursday that lie detectors won’t deter sex offenders.

“It’s redundant,” she said. “Sex offenders cannot be cured. I discussed this whole issue with a psychiatrist.”

Even though sexual predators might believe they will not re-offend while they are taking a polygraph, they can’t help doing so, she said.

On Sept. 3, the man convicted of molesting her child was released from prison into the community, to the shock of victims and their families who were not notified of his release.

Tougher bill
Fletcher’s bill also addresses eight areas related to the way sex offenders are managed in California, and extends legal protections to the Sex Offender Management Board members and certified treatment providers.

At the moment, the board is trying to come up with standards for a more effective “containment model” by July 2012, when the program is slated to become fully functional.

The day before Brown signed the bills into law, Fletcher issued a news release stating 19 in San Diego County faced stricter sex-crimes penalties since Chelsea’s Law was signed.

Chelsea King, 17, and Amber Dubois, 14, of Escondido were kidnapped, raped and murdered by sex offender John Gardner, who confessed and is now serving life in prison.

The law named after Chelsea includes enhanced sentencing for predators who commit forcible sex crimes against children, including the “one strike” possibility of life in prison without parole for the most egregious crimes.

It also mandates GPS and lifetime parole monitoring and creates zones that prohibit offenders from visiting places where children gather.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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