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Bill that would return sex offenders to prison dies in committee

March 12, 2013|By Paige St. John

Laying the groundwork for debate over half a dozen bills that would send parole violators back to prison, Assembly Democrats on a public safety committee Tuesday shot down a bill that would require prison for paroled sex offenders who fail to register their addresses with authorities.

Under the state's 2011 prison realignment law, state parolees who violate the terms of their parole no longer face a yearlong return to prison, but up to 180 days in county jail instead. Because of crowding conditions at some jails, those sentences have been reduced in some cases to as little as one day.

The bill by Assemblyman Mike Morrell (R-Rancho Cucamonga) would have created an exemption for the nearly 7,000 sex offenders on state parole as well as community supervision. It would require prison time instead of jail for those who fail to comply with Megan's Law, a 2004 state measure that requires released sex offenders to register their home address with local law enforcement.

"It has become a well-known fact that there are no repercussions for failure to comply with the rules," Morrell said.

Public Safety Committee Chairman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) raised concern of eroding the gains California has made in reducing prison overcrowding.

He also expressed concern about how county officials decide who to release early from jail, and that California takes a "one size fits all" approach to sex offenders. Ammiano said he plans to file his own legislation on the matter later this year.

"You have identified a problem. There’s no doubt about that," Ammiano told Morrell. "I disagree on your solution." Morrell's bill died on a 2-4 party-line vote, with Democrats in the majority.

There are at least six other pending bills that would require parole violators to be returned to state prison. They include a measure by Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) that requires prison time for sex offenders and others who remove their GPS monitors.

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paige.stjohn@latimes.com

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