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Judge says L.A. County parolees aren’t subject to Jessica’s Law

September 1, 2010 - 2:37 pm

Registered sex offenders on parole in L.A. County will no longer be subject to Jessica’s Law’s residency restrictions, per a ruling yesterday by L.A. County Superior Court Supervising Judge Peter Espinoza.

In his ruling (pdf), Espinoza points out that the court’s received 300 petitions asking for relief from the law and “dozens of parolees continue to file new petitions every week.” The petitions argue that in L.A. County, there’s virtually no affordable housing that complies with Jessica’s Law’s requirement that registered sex offenders—regardless of offense—reside at least 2,000 feet from parks and schools.

“It is now abundantly clear to the court that the question of the constitutionality of Penal Code Section 3003.5(b) ‘is a recurring problem important to other parolees and CDCR,'” Espinoza writes.

Espinoza argues that because filing a petition requires the assistance of legal counsel, “In the interests of equity and judicial economy, the Court now deems it appropriate to consider the procedural rights of all similarly situated parolees….” In other words, if some parolees have been able to get a stay of enforcement, all parolees should be granted a stay.

In this week’s CityBeat, I wrote about a five-block section of San Diego that’s become home to an unknown number of homeless sex offenders on parole. Laura Arnold, a deputy public defender, is doing what lawyers in L.A. County have been doing—filing petitions with the court on behalf of parolees who would have a place to live if not for the residence restrictions. Experts on sex-offender management have said repeatedly that there’s no connection between where a person lives and whether that person will re-offend. For a good overview of the issue, see the California Sex Offender Management Board’s 2008 report, “Homelessness Among Registered Sex Offenders in California.” Espinoza sits on the board.

The L.A. ruling doesn’t apply to any other county in the state and, Arnold told me, the California Attorney General’s office has the option of appealing Espinoza’s ruling. I’ve put in a call to the California Department of Corrections to get a response.

Update: On Thursday, CDCR asked for, and was granted, a stay of Espinoza’s ruling.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. September 3, 2010 - 9:26 am 9:26 am

    Obviously the article bases the whole “Not applying Jessica’s Law to those on Parole” decision on a poor decision by a judge. However, I think that just a week or so, there was an article explaining that there was a female Parole Officer in that country that was case by case taking cases to this judge showing that say the case being looked at, had a place to live safely with his parents or family and it was only Jessica’s Laws residency restrictions that were making this parolee homeless and thus less stable. The judge was granting these decisions one after another. This final decision, was that for the purpose of those on parole, who were already being closely monitored, it made much more sense for them to be registered at a known address than to be registered transient.

    This judge knew exactly what he was doing. He could see that the law was causing more harm than it was preventing and he made his decision. He may have made this decision more in support of parole officers than sex offenders, but either way, he got it right. I sure hope higher courts will see it the same way.

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