View the article here
Hundreds will be sent back to prison for violating Jessica's Law.
SACRAMENTO -- -- Vowing to fight an order from the state's highest court, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and corrections officials Thursday defiantly began sending hundreds of freed sex offenders back to prison for violating strict residency requirements imposed by voters last year.
The California Supreme Court late Wednesday temporarily blocked the state from arresting four sex offenders who went to court in an effort to avert arrest under what is commonly known as Jessica's Law, which decrees that they must live more than 2,000 feet from schools, parks and other areas where children gather.
Though the justices indicated that they would decide the case within weeks, Schwarzenegger said the order would not halt the arrests of 850 other convicted sex offenders who have not complied with the residency rules.
"My administration will vigorously defend against challenges to Jessica's Law and protect the will of the people. I am disappointed with the court's order, but remain committed to the full implementation of Jessica's Law," the governor said in a statement. "I have directed my administration [to] put every available resource into enforcement."
Officials said they expect the arrests to take about two weeks.
Those facing arrest represent 17% of the more than 5,000 offenders who state officials say are subject to the 2,000-foot requirement because they have been on parole -- either for a recent sex crime or an old one coupled with a new non-sex crime -- since Proposition 83 was approved overwhelmingly last November.
Lawyers for the four petitioners, who were identified in court papers only by their initials, said that in light of the governor's decision, they would return to court as early as today to seek a broader order applying to everyone threatened with arrest.
"I think the governor should respect the court's process," said attorney Ernest Galvan of San Francisco. "It's not about public safety. It's about politics."
Corrections officials Thursday night said they had not yet tallied the number of offenders arrested on the first day.
One man was arrested while taking a class at the Sacramento North-Natomas Parole Office. Another offender in the area was handcuffed while visiting a friend and sent to jail; he had been living in an orange car on blocks inside a carport, 300 feet from a school field.
Opponents of the law say it is too restrictive and sweeping, snaring people like one of the men in the Supreme Court case who was convicted 22 years ago of indecent exposure for urinating beneath a railroad trestle in Texas and was recently released from prison after serving time for a non-sex crime.
Another petitioner was convicted in 1998, when he was 16, of a crime involving sexual contact with a 15-year-old. He came under Proposition 83 because of a traffic citation that had violated his parole.
The four men -- two from San Diego County, one from Santa Clara County and one from San Francisco -- contend that the law is unconstitutional, will drive them from their longtime homes, impose an unreasonable condition of parole and levy new punishment for old crimes.
Diane Marie Amann, a law professor at UC Davis, said the state is within its legal right to enforce the residency law against sex offenders not connected to the case.
But a decision in favor of the four men could invalidate the law completely, Amann said.
"It would surely provide for more orderly enforcement if the process of arresting people was postponed until it was certain that that was a legal procedure," Amann said.
States in similar circumstances often wait until legal questions are resolved before taking action. Since the U.S. Supreme Court accepted a death penalty case from Kentucky involving lethal injection, for example, many states have barred executions using that method.
In California, officials spent nine months deliberating how to interpret Proposition 83 and seven weeks warning some offenders that they must move.
On Thursday, corrections chief James Tilton ordered parole agents around the state to begin calling sex offenders into parole offices and asking them to prove they were living outside the restricted zones -- and arresting them if they could not.
"We can second-guess all kinds of court issues," Tilton said. "Right now I have a specific ruling that applies to four people. It doesn't apply to the rest. Do I not enforce Jessica's Law for the rest, waiting for some other ruling?"
Those arrested will have to face the state parole board, which can decide how long they must stay in prison once they return.
Since its passage, about 2,100 sex offenders have complied with the law, while 1,900 are back in custody for other reasons, 100 have unknown whereabouts and 61 have died, prison officials said. The 400 to 500 sex offenders who will be going on parole each month will now have to find residences or face arrest.
Civil rights activists have said that in some densely developed cities, such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego, it is nearly impossible for sex offenders to comply with the law because so few locations meet its requirements. State officials Thursday could not provide the addresses or a geographical accounting of offenders who are out of compliance.
However, Tilton did say that many offenders had succeeded in complying with the law by becoming homeless.
Homeless sex offenders must report to parole offices daily, where they can also charge up their battery-powered monitoring devices that are also required under the law.
"There is no exemption for me to say, 'Well, by the way, because there is no place or you can't find a place, therefore you can live in a location near a school,' " Tilton added.
The husband-and-wife legislators who wrote Proposition 83, state Sen. George Runner and Assemblywoman Sharon Runner, both Republicans from Lancaster, have shown little interest in sex offenders' circumstances.
"It's outrageous that we would allow sex offenders -- even one -- to live across the street from a school or park," they said in a joint response to the court's ruling.
"In interpreting this law, the presumption should favor the safety of California's children, not the inconvenience of sex offenders."
Friday, October 12, 2007
CA - State defies high court over sex offenders
View the article here