California sex offenders who serve their time are released on parole and only those considered high risk are given a GPS tracker. Now we know that thousands simply take them off. The jump in the number of high-risk sex offenders who are cutting off their GPS ankle trackers is actually bigger than previously thought, almost double since an October 2011 policy change called "realignment" that sends parolees to county jail instead of state prison for certain relatively minor violations.
In the 15 months prior to the policy change, more than 3,100 warrants were issued for sex offender fugitives. In the following 15 months, nearly 5,000 warrants were issued, a 58 percent increase. Previously, 30 percent had cut off their monitors. The state only counted the number of parolees no matter how many times they did it.
"If someone absconds, we go after them and 92 percent of the time, we catch them, and we do so within 12 days on average," said Jeffrey Callison with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
But since realignment, being recaptured means only a few days at the local lockup and if that facility is overcrowded, it could mean no jail time at all. Critics say that's why more and more parolees are ditching their GPS -- the consequences are weak. "Clearly, they're not cutting them off so they can go drink a cup of coffee unmonitored. They're cutting them off because they want opportunities to go commit new crimes," Senator Ted Lieu said.
Take the recent Stockton case of Jerome DeAvila, a high-risk paroled sex offender who was in and out of jail for months, charged with drugs and repeatedly disabling his GPS tracker. He wasn't a fugitive for the GPS issue, but he was supposed to be in jail for a different parole violation. Due to overcrowding, he was released early. "He received a 30-day sentence and was released the next day," San Joaquin County Deputy District Attorney Sherri Adams said in February.
A few days later, police arrested him for killing and raping his 76-year-old grandmother.
Sen. Lieu has a proposal that puts parolees who cut off their electronic monitors back in state prison. The Senate Public Safety Committee is set to consider that bill in a couple of weeks, but other lawmakers and even Gov. Jerry Brown have been reluctant to send more people to prison because of a court order to reduce the inmate population.