SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — California is relaxing the rules governing where some sex offenders are allowed to live, as the state announced it will stop enforcing a key part of Jessica’s Law.
Instead of taking a blanket approach keeping all sex offenders from living close to schools and parks, the state is instead making decisions on a case-by-case basis.
Sherri Spotwood is uneasy knowing sex offenders could soon be allowed to live near her kids’ favorite Sacramento park.
“I wouldn’t feel my kids were safe and I probably wouldn’t bring them to this park, or to a park,” she said.
Like any parent, she wants to know what exactly the state’s decision means.
California is altering its 8-year ban prohibiting all sex offenders from living closer than 2,000 feet to parks or schools. Now that restriction will only apply to pedophiles and high-risk offenders. The rest will be determined on a case-by-case basis.
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation announced the policy changes in a memo following a state supreme court ruling from earlier this month. The court found the blanket ban unconstitutional and it forced large groups of parolees into homelessness.
“We believe the changes will reduce the alarming number of homeless sex-offender parolees, reduce their risk of reoffending, and increase community safety,” a corrections spokesman said.
The group California Attorneys for Criminal Justice lobbied for the case-by-case approach for some time.
“It’s really about looking at each case individually and deciding what punishment fits the crime,” said Ignacio Hernandez. “The way the law’s drafted now, it captures the most egregious cases and the least serious cases and treats them the same. We assumed that at some point the courts would find that unconstitutional.”
The changes aren’t immediate as corrections officials say they will need 60 days to individually review the files of 6,000 sex offender parolees, half of whom are considered child molesters. But they say the parks and schools restriction will stay in effect for dangerous offenders.
For parents like Spotwood, the ruling is a tough sell.
“Already feel like your kids is not safe anyway, so to hear that makes it even more, I don’t know, not good,” she said.
The issue is far from settled as the authors of Jessica’s law say they intend to reintroduce their legislation, granting discretion to local governments.