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Jessica’s Law challenged

Report claims proposition ineffective, expensive

Posted: January 14, 2009 10:24 p.m.
Updated: January 15, 2009 4:55 a.m.
State Senator George Runner defended Jessica's Law Wednesday in response to a report that claims the proposition is ineffective, expensive and leaves sex offenders homeless.

"The number-one concern for us remains the same: We just want to know where they are," said Runner, R-Santa Clarita, about sex offenders.

"Before we had homeless sex offenders we didn't know where they were, now we do," he said from his Sacramento office Wednesday.

A report released last week by the California Sex Offender Management Board claims Jessica's Law makes many sex offenders homeless and returns them to a life of crime with no evidence the law actually prevents recidivism.

The report also says the state of California spends almost $25 million a year on housing sex offenders.
Runner, along with his wife Assemblywoman Sharon Runner, introduced Proposition 83 in 2006 that led to Jessica's Law, said the report offers no solutions.

Jessica's Law prohibits sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of schools, parks and other areas frequented by children.

"They make some observations and some of the issues they raise are valid, but the board didn't come up with specific recommendations," Runner said.

In 2006, about 70 percent of voters endorsed Jessica's Law.

Since then, sex offenders have found it increasingly difficult to find a place to live in California, the report claims.

"It's a mess," said Erin West, spokeswoman for the board, about Jessica's law.

West said the law is ineffective. "It's almost impossible to enforce," she said.

"There are a lot of questions about what defines a park or what defines a school. Someone could set up a day-care in their home. Does that count as a school? Does a shoreline count as a park?"

Empirical data shows that sex offenders made homeless are often pushing back into crime, West said.

"There's research that shows offenders will engage in this activity when they lose some stability in their lives," West said. "If they lose their job for instance, any increase in stress. The research shows this tends to lead to reoccurrence."

A registered sex offender lives in a mobile home 500 feet from Rio Vista Elementary School off of Hornby Avenue.

Despite complaints from some neighbors to the Santa Clarita Sheriff's Station and school board officials, the man was permitted to live there.

Runner said Jessica's Law applies only to parolees released after the law was passed in 2006. The sex offender near Rio Vista was convicted before 2006.


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