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California Briefing / SACRAMENTO

Sex offender evaluations bill passes

August 13, 2008|Charles Piller

The California Assembly unanimously passed a measure Tuesday that would reauthorize the state Department of Mental Health to use private contractors to evaluate sex offenders for mental illness. If a jury confirms the diagnosis, the individuals are committed to a mental hospital indefinitely in lieu of parole. The Senate earlier passed the bill, also unanimously.

"Jessica's Law," passed by voters in 2006 as Proposition 83, dramatically increased the number of inmates who must be examined. The Times reported Sunday that private psychologists and psychiatrists were paid about $24 million last year for such work, including two who earned more than $1 million each.

If signed by the governor, the bill would let the state use private contractors for evaluations, instead of civil servants, through 2010. Under the legislation, mental health officials also would report on progress in hiring Civil Service evaluators and on the number of inmates committed.

Assemblyman Todd Spitzer (R-Orange), who presented the bill, SB 1546, called the high contractor fees "unconscionable."

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