Pair of bills aimed at release of sex offenders pass Public Safety Committee

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A locally authored bill about where the state places sex offenders once they’re released from prison passed the Senate Committee on Public Safety on Monday.

Senate Bill 1198, introduced by Sen. Scott Wilk, and Senate Bill 1199, which Wilk authored, address significant concerns about how the criminal justice system deals with individuals convicted of sex crimes.

Current law requires an inmate released on parole or postrelease community supervision to be returned to the county that was the last legal residence of the inmate prior to incarceration, according to S.B. 1199.

This bill would require an sex offender released on parole or postrelease community supervision to be returned to the city that was the last legal residence of the inmate prior to incarceration or a close geographic location in which he or she has family, social ties, or other economic ties, unless return to that location would violate law or the terms of release.

S.B. 1198 requires the state to take a closer look at those released from jail and prison for sex crimes, with respect to recidivism and desistance from offending, and require an annual report to the Legislature about ongoing research. The bill would also add two additional members with experience with juveniles, as specified, to the Sex Offender Management Board.

“People living in rural and affordable areas of California, like the Victor and Antelope valleys should not bear the brunt of rehousing and rehabilitating California’s sex offenders. Unfortunately many of the laws put in place to protect citizens from predators have had the unintended consequence of putting rural communities at a higher risk,” said Wilk in a news release. “This is not only dangerous for these communities, but it puts a tremendous strain on the availability of the services and supervision needed for the parolee to successfully rehabilitate.”

How the system deals with sex offenders is a controversial topic, which led Californians to adopt a tiered sex-offender registry last year that creates a tiered system based on an offender’s likelihood of re-offending. It also allowed sex offenders convicted of crimes the courts considered less serious to be removed from the Megan’s Law registry that tracks offenders.

Jessica’s Law prohibits sex offender parolees released from prison on or after Nov. 8, 2006 from residing within 2,000 feet of any school and park where children congregate. The unintended consequences of residence restrictions include transience, homelessness, instability, and other obstacles to community reentry that may actually compromise, rather than promote, public safety. Currently offenders are disproportionately clustered in areas with more compliant and cheaper housing, Wilk wrote in a news release. Such has been the case in affordable and rural areas around the state.

Both bills, S.B. 1198 and 1199, are headed to the Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration of their fiscal impacts.

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