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Homeless sex offenders on parole jumps sharply

December 19, 2008|Michael Rothfeld

The number of homeless sex offenders on parole in California has increased dramatically since the approval two years ago of Proposition 83, an initiative that imposed harsh restrictions on where they can live, a state panel reported Thursday.

The Sex Offender Management Board said the number of parolees monitored by the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation -- one of the only government agencies to enforce what is known as Jessica's Law -- increased from 88 in November 2006 to 1,056 at the end of June 2008.

"Common sense leads to the conclusion that a community cannot be safer when sex offenders are homeless," the report states, citing research concluding that unstable housing can lead to recidivism.

Jessica's Law, which prohibits sex offenders from residing within 2,000 feet of schools and parks where children play, was proposed by state Sen. George Runner (R-Lancaster) and his wife, Sharon, a former assemblywoman, and strongly backed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

When the state board looked at its effect on housing for all sex offenders, including those not on parole against whom the law has not generally been enforced, it found homelessness had increased 60%. Potential solutions mentioned included housing multiple sex offenders in the same place and putting them in mobile trailers until they can find a permanent home.

The governor's office said Thursday that Schwarzenegger still "strongly supports Jessica's Law, which all involved concede needs fine-tuning." Neither the governor nor the law's other sponsors have offered proposals to amend it.

-- Michael Rothfeld

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