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Notification of sex offenders to move starts today

August 17, 2007|From the Associated Press

SACRAMENTO -- Parole agents today will begin notifying as many as 2,100 recently paroled sex offenders that they have to move because they live too close to schools and parks, in violation of Jessica's Law.

Thursday's announcement came a month after officials said they had tentatively concluded that many parolees were violating the law, an initiative approved by voters in November that bars sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of places where children congregate.

The month's delay in notification means some offenders could have until late October to move, pushing compliance back to nearly a year after California voters overwhelmingly approved the restrictions. The initiative is named after a 9-year-old Florida girl who was kidnapped, raped and suffocated by a convicted sex offender in 2005.

Corrections Secretary James Tilton said in mid-July that his Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation would give violators 45 days to move.

He said Thursday that it took the department four weeks to come up with procedures to notify the parolees and to reach agreement with the Parole Agents Assn. of California on issues that include overtime and the increased workload for parole officers who must notify and supervise offenders.

Parole agents will begin serving the notices today and must complete delivery to all 2,100 suspected violators by Sept. 11, Tilton told the Associated Press.

The 2,100 are among nearly 5,000 offenders paroled since the initiative was approved. Courts have ruled that the restrictions apply only to inmates freed after the measure was approved.

"We're moving very aggressively. We've got boots on the ground starting tomorrow," Tilton said. "It's a very complex law and we had to make sure all the instructions were in place."

The 45-day time clock for the offenders to find new housing begins ticking as soon as they are served, meaning the first offenders notified will have until early October to find a new home.

Scott Johnson, president of the Parole Agents Assn., said state officials moved too slowly to implement the restrictions.

"The law doesn't give them 45 days -- they're making it up," he said. "It ends up being about seven weeks, we think, before we get the first body moved. Jessica's Law is the law. They should have started on this Nov. 8, not, what, Aug. 16."

Tilton previously said the 45-day window, although not in the law, was reasonable to give offenders time to comply.

Tilton said the agreement with the Parole Agents Assn. permits whatever overtime is needed for the state's 2,800 agents to notify all offenders by Sept. 11.

Johnson said the overtime is needed in part because the department has about 100 fewer agents than it needs.

Parolees who refuse to move face the possibility of being sent back to prison for violation of their paroles.

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