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Commentary: Jessica's law/homeless connection

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, November 19, 2010

Jessica's law bans sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of schools and parks. Its proponents said that would make us all safer. But the tight restrictions have made it impossible for paroled sex offenders to find legal places to live. In some cases, entire cities are off limits to them. Predictably, homelessness has soared. Before Jessica's law, 88 registered sex offenders were homeless. Today, 2,100 of them are homeless, a 24-fold increase.

A new state task force that studied Jessica's law concludes that "Homeless sex offenders put the public at risk." Composed of police chiefs, victim advocates, parole and probation officers, the panel found that homeless parolees were more unstable, and therefore more likely to re-offend.

Also, homelessness makes GPS tracking, another key feature of Jessica's law, more expensive and difficult to carry out. The panel says the legislature should ease residency restrictions. That makes sense, but it doesn't go far enough.

Jessica's law needs a complete overhaul. The overly restrictive residency rule is just one of its problems.


Ginger Rutland writes for The Sacramento Bee opinion pages.

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