By Mike Rosenberg
SACRAMENTO -- Hoping to keep more than 100 mentally ill violent sexual predators from roaming California's streets, the Legislature on Thursday passed a bill designed to solve a new problem that's tying judges' hands.
When their time in prison is up, sex criminals who are deemed mentally ill -- and likely to strike again -- are ordered to a state protective hospital instead of being released. But psychologists who make these determinations have been removing themselves from cases after state mental health officials in April forced them to do the job full time or not at all. That's left authorities with no way to prove a sex criminal is mentally ill, since current law does not allow authorities to replace psychologists who resign.
But SB 760 (PDF), which unanimously cleared the Senate on Wednesday and is headed to Gov. Jerry Brown's desk, would allow for replacement psychologists to come in immediately. They're needed quickly: Already, two sex criminals have been released in Southern California after their psychological evaluators quit, with another case pending in Santa Clara County, two more in Alameda County and 130 others around the state.
They could be "going back on the streets and raping people. It's very sad," state Sen. Elaine Alquist, D-Santa Clara, the bill's author, said on the Senate floor following the bill's passage. "It's a common sense solution to a very heinous problem."