Jessica's Law blamed for homelessness

November 20, 2008 10:13:07 PM PST
Thursday, a state appeals court ruled that Jessica's Law amounts to additional punishment. The law prohibits sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park.

This ruling leaves the current law in effect, but could limit its application in the future. Meantime, the law passed to crack down on sex offenders, could actually be increasing the danger they pose.

Jessica's Law was passed to crack down on sex offenders. Now it could actually be increasing the danger such offenders pose by driving them into homelessness at a significant rate.

To by-pass Jessica's Law, which requires sex offenders to live at least 2,000 feet away from a park or school, a stunning new state report found sex offenders in California are registering without any home address.

Before voters passed the law in November 2006, only 88 registered sex offenders statewide were homeless. A year and a half later, it jumped to more than 1,000. That's 800 percent higher and the Sex Offender Management Board blames it on Jessica's Law.

"It has created less and less places to house these folks. So you're seeing higher concentrations of offenders, and you're also seeing higher concentrations of offenders in places you may not necessarily want to have them, like hotels," said Suzanne Brown-McBride, from the California Sex Offender Management Board.

Studies show homelessness increases the risk re-offending, sexual or otherwise, because it leads to unstable employment and lower levels of support.

"An 800 percent increase is a very scary thing. You do want to be able to check your neighborhood and know where these folks are living and take precautions to protect your children," said Nancy Reagan, a concerned mother.

But enforcers of Jessica's Law say homeless sex offenders who have been paroled since the law passed are being monitored by a GPS anklet.

"By the end of the this year, early part of January '09, all of our sex offenders that are under supervision of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation will be on GPS," said Robert Ambroselli, from the California Department of Corrections.

Therapists, though, say GPS monitoring doesn't stop someone from committing a crime.

"I think we need to pay attention to the magnitude of what we're asking for out of GPS. It won't prevent. It will simply track," said Gerry Blasingame, a family therapist.

The California Sex Offender Management Board will work with local communities in identifying places parolees can actually live.

The biggest challenge for the state is how to find residences that not only comply with the 2,000 foot rule but are also close enough to services they need to help keep them from re-offending.


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