Gov orders state to stop destroying sex offender files

March 10, 2010 7:15:46 PM PST
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was surprised to learn the state's probation department routinely destroys the parole files of sex offenders, so he has ordered them to stop it and hang onto those files indefinitely.

The move to start keeping the parole files of sex offenders, instead of destroying them, comes as the result of a San Diego-area case involving John Gardner.

Gardner, who is a registered sex offender and was no longer under parole supervision, is accused of killing 17-year-old Chelsea King.

One lawmaker requested to see Gardner's parole file and got only a one-page summary because the state destroys those records one year after a criminal's parole ends.

"I was outraged! How an entity that's charged with the public safety of California can destroy the records of a sexually violent predator they've been warned will re-offend; how they can destroy the record of any criminal, is beyond me," says Assm. Nathan Fletcher, R-San Diego.

The California Corrections and Rehabilitation Department defended the old policy, saying it keeps pertinent parole documents permanently, but shreds or burns the rest.

In any given month, 10,000 parolees, including sex offenders, cycle out of the system -- that is a lot of paperwork.

"Because there's so many offenders. It's cost prohibitive to retain every single record of every single offender that's ever come through CDCR's custody," says Terry Thornton from the CA Corrections Department.

"I could not believe it. I was appalled!" says Harriet Salarno from Crime Victims United.

Crime victims groups were surprised, considering most ex-cons go back to their old ways.

"Anybody with common sense, any common sense, would know you better keep the record because you don't know if this person is re-habilitated or not," says Salarno.

Why didn't the state think it might need parole supervision files in the future?

"I really don't want to get into that, Nannette, because then, you're speculating. You're having to have a crystal ball to figure out, 'Oh, who's coming back to prison? Maybe we should keep this file,'" says Thornton.

Gov. Schwarzenegger has now ordered the agency to stop destroying the parole records of sex offenders only and keep them indefinitely.

In a statement the governor said, "It is in the best interest of public safety to retain all information for those individuals."


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