By Michael Gardner
Parole agents ordered to increase supervision
SACRAMENTO — The state released new directives yesterday to immediately tighten its parole agents’ supervision of convicted sex offenders in response to a mounting outcry over apparent breakdowns in two ongoing, high-profile cases.
Agents will visit the homes of the worst offenders at least two times a month, up from one. They also will check with local law enforcement before discharging someone from parole to learn whether calls have been made to the residence that might tip them off to misbehavior or parole violations.
“I would characterize this as an attempt by the (prison agency) to improve public safety, and shows that the department is taking every step it can to improve supervision of its parolees,” said Gordon Hinkle, a spokesman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Hinkle said the department was working on those changes before revelations this month that John Albert Gardner III, charged in the rape and killing of Chelsea King, 17, of Poway, violated his parole at least seven times after he was released from prison for molesting a 13-year-old neighbor in Rancho Bernardo and was never returned to prison.
Hinkle said the review was launched in the aftermath of the case against Phillip Garrido, a paroled sex offender charged with snatching Jaycee Dugard off a South Lake Tahoe street when she was 11 and holding her captive for 18 years.
Garrido’s parole records contain accounts that agents missed numerous opportunities to discover that he was holding Dugard in Antioch and fathered two children with her.
In Gardner’s case, the 30-year-old suspect served five years in prison and spent three years on parole as a registered sex offender after his 2000 molestation conviction. He was discharged from state supervision in 2008.
His most serious parole violation was living too close to Miramar College and its day-care center. He lived there for 16 months before parole officials forced him to move. He also was cited for marijuana possession while on parole.
Gardner pleaded not guilty this month to killing Chelsea. She disappeared Feb. 25 after going for a run at Rancho Bernardo Community Park. Her body was found March 2 in a tributary of Lake Hodges, two days after Gardner’s arrest. He also is a focus of the investigation into the February 2009 disappearance of Amber Dubois, 14, of Escondido. Her remains were found March 6 north of Pala.
Parole agents learned of the new policies for managing high-risk sex offenders in a memo distributed Thursday. Yesterday, the department gave to the news media a 30-page document outlining the changes.
Besides increasing the number of monthly visits to sex offenders, agents will be expected to more closely track the parolees wearing Global Positioning System ankle bracelets. All alerts and violations related to the GPS tracking system will be reported, and how problems were resolved must be documented.
Melinda Silva, president of the Parole Agents Association of California, said the increased workload will overwhelm agents responsible for tracking the movements of sex offenders. Agents monitoring lower-risk offenders manage 40 parolees each; those with high-risk offenders supervise 20 each.
“If they want to improve supervision, they’ve got to reduce (the) caseload,” Silva said.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (Contact) views the changes being made by Matthew Cate, head of the state corrections department, as positive.
- And what about the his own sexual escapades?
“The governor believes the state must do everything it can to make sure the public is protected from sexual predators. We support Secretary Cate’s actions to improve his department policies and better protect our communities,” said Rachel Arrezola, a Schwarzenegger spokeswoman.
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