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California Parole System Criticized

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Video published April 2, 2010 | Download MP4 | View transcript

Above: The case of John Albert Gardner III, the convicted sex offender accused of raping and killing local teenager Chelsea King, has raised many questions about the state's parole system and how Gardner was monitored following his release from prison. We speak to Ricky Young, from the San Diego Union-Tribune, about the latest.

GLORIA PENNER (Host): There's renewed interest in the accused killer of teenager Chelsea King. Reports of John Gardner violating the terms of his parole after a sex-offense conviction, are stirring criticism of the parole, and sex offender monitoring agencies. Ricky Young, government editor for the San Diego Union-Tribune is with me to explain. So Ricky what have we learned about Garner's activites after he was paroled as a convicted sex offender, that has stirred this concern?

RICKY YOUNG (Editor, San Diego Union-Tribune): Well, he got on parole in 2005 after a 2000 incident where he molested and beat a 13-year-old Rancho Bernardo girl. And, the provisions of his parole called for a number of things. It didn't allow for him to live in certain places, it didn't allow for him to be on the Internet, didn't allow all sorts of things and its turned out that in at least seven cases, and we uncovered an eighth this week, regarding him having a Myspace page, that he violated his parole.

PENNER: But he was never sent back to prison.

YOUNG: Never sent back to prison.

PENNER: So how does the parole board explain this?

YOUNG: Well one thing they say is that uh the prisons are full and if they sent someone back to prison every time they violated one of these provisions, some of which are fairly minor, that they just wouldn't have room for them.

PENNER: So that's the total response? The prisons are full, so if people violate parole they just stay free.

YOUNG: That's one of their responses. They also say they do a diligent job and there's different interpretations of some of these violations. But I would say the main problem is the prisons are full.

PENNER: OK and...

YOUNG: And that's evidenced in the news this week about you know, you have some crime victim groups suing, saying that the state should not be doing this new program it has to release some prisoners early. There's another program that has put some people on parole that is non revocable, so uh even if you did commit a violation you wouldn't go back in. So they're actually formalizing that policy as opposed to just not doing it in some cases.

PENNER: So the world is just becoming a more dangerous place?

YOUNG: Well, uh, it certainly seems that way, that more criminals are ending up out on the streets as a result of this.

PENNER: But this is a man who is accused of committing a murder when theoretically, he should have been in prison because of parole violations.

YOUNG: Well had he gone back on his parole violations, he would not necessarily still have been in prison now. But here's what would have happened is, he would have gone back to prison, and then when he was released the second time from prison he would have been subject to the rules of Jessica's Law, which have some provisions like some stricter monitoring, this sort of thing, in particular for sex offenders.

PENNER: Well one local politician is calling for changes to strengthen the sex offender laws. What changes is he looking for?

YOUNG: Well that's Nathan Fletcher who represents the area where Chelsea King lived, and he has teamed up with her parents in a very emotional plea to do something, they haven't exactly defined what that something is, but there are provisions like a one-strike law where a sex offender would be put in prison for life. Now, you know, when the prisons are already overcrowded and they are starting to let dangerous criminals out, I'm not sure how that would work or where they would find the funding, but they're trying to sort that out and they have a lot of support. The Kings have a Facebook page, they are asking people to send blue ribbons to Sacramento, you know, but we're talking hundreds of millions of dollars this would cost and no identified funding source at a time when the state has monumental financial problems.

PENNER: But it's a gesture that tells us something about the tenor of the public now. Are we seeing now that the public is becoming more tough on crime?

YOUNG: I think there is just a desire to do something, to try and prevent this from happening again. There's experts who say that different things would work. Like what if we just enforced the laws we have? But then you wouldn't be able to call that Chelsea's Law. You know, "Chelsea's Law mandated that we follow all of the previous laws." Not very appealing in the end. You know there's also experts who say the problem is not on the prison or offender end, but that you should try to get to these folks when they are younger, that you should have better provisions to treat kids who were abused as children, so they don't turn around and abuse people in the future.

PENNER: That's true...

YOUNG: You know but that's something that goes long term and doesn't get the visceral response people would get from passing a law right now.

PENNER: You talked a little bit about the Myspace page that John Gardner was apparently on. Why is the internet being used by sex offenders particularly dangerous for the public?

YOUNG: Uh, well it's a very, uh, expeditious way for sex offenders to get in touch with children who are on the internet. You know, you see the show, uh you know the Dateline show "To Catch a Predator," and that seems to be a uh tool that they use. And so that's why it's particularly important to victim advocates that they be kept off the Internet.

PENNER: Yeah it seems kind of hard to police that. There are 600,000 registered sex offenders in the nation. I mean how feasible is it for corrections agencies to scour the Internet for use by offenders?

YOUNG: Well, they have many tools. I mean one of them is – uh, somebody out on parole has no 4th Amendment right against searches and seizures. So you can go right into their house and see if they have a computer, for one thing. And then also we're told by parole agents who think that this should be a routine part of the checks, that each parole office has what it needs to make these kind of checks, deeper than you could on Google or something, to find whether the guy you are in charge of supervising is on the Internet or not.

PENNER: Well the story goes on. Thank you very much Ricky Young.

YOUNG: Thanks Gloria.

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Avatar for user 'classybrn'

classybrn | April 2, 2010 at 9:12 p.m. ― 6 years, 11 months ago

Why are there more minorities , in prison than others and who remain in prison? who are sent back for longer terns
why are they sent back for minor infractions vs others who commit larger infractions?
I have a son who lead a model life for over 30 years, received his education bachlors degree, reported to the campus officers who knew of his backgrown and mointored him for 2 years ,,worked and had 4 children, time was always accounted for and received accrolates and was given six years for failure to register and he was outside of the bounds of any of the laws.
Additonally he was convicted as a minor, but is serving time for failure to register after 30 years. Is the laws too leinent for him or too hard?
does these people ever pay for their crimes? or they ever rehabilitated if they are black? one thing he said, Can I ever get right or what good was all the years of going to school and trying to prove to all that i was sorry for what happen and want to be a part of the communiiity and prove myself.
what do i have to do?

What roles does race have to play with conviction?

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Avatar for user 'buchanan'

buchanan | April 2, 2010 at 10:44 p.m. ― 6 years, 11 months ago

Gloria Penner,

I have always enjoyed watching KPBS because of the educational and informed opinions. This segment just shows how uneducated you and the Union Tribune is on this subject. Actually I was sickened by it.

If you want the truth, If you want some facts, then start looking in the right places. In fact, why not start with the families of those with a loved one on the registry.

A veteran highway patrolman took a young life in 1986. A neighbor took a young life in 2002. Just because this man was registered, the whole population is coming unglued. I expected more from KPBS.

FACTS: California sex offender management board.

New California support group.

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Avatar for user 'buchanan'

buchanan | April 2, 2010 at 11:11 p.m. ― 6 years, 11 months ago

go to and get in touch with us.

It may feel like it, but race is not the issue here. Every family who has a loved one on the registry and in these circumstances is suffering. The children in these families are suffering the most. But, no one seems to care. While trying to protect children, our laws are destroying thousands of children's lives. And no one cares.

Everyone is horrified with what has happened to these precious girls. Every families worst nightmare. But, with 95,000 people on the registry, for 200 different offences, they are not John Gardner.

And if you read his history, it tells a story of what did go wrong. He was a at risk child and those risks just kept increasing and increasing. Why do we release a violent person without some sort of intervention or evaluation in place? In prison, his illness just intensified. How does this make our soceity safer?

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Avatar for user 'Edward89'

Edward89 | April 2, 2010 at 11:48 p.m. ― 6 years, 11 months ago

Anyone who gets in the RSO (Registered Sexual Offender) database is a threat to society.

Their children need to be protected from the offender. Our laws need to be changed so that a repeat offence requires the death penalty. That’s the only effective way to reduce recidivism. Two strikes and your out.

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Avatar for user 'shelomith_stow'

shelomith_stow | April 3, 2010 at 6:23 a.m. ― 6 years, 11 months ago

Edward, really? Anyone who gets in the RSO (Registered Sexual Offender) database is a threat to society? That's not what our Justice Dept. says.

“Only 5.3% of sex offenders are considered the high risk and dangerous predators according to the Justice Policy Institute.”

One of my son's best friends is a RSO; his crime? Having sex with his wife before they married, when she was 16 and he was 19. Funny, his wife and children don't seem to fear him. They are a bit angry that he can't attend parent day at their schools or come to their activities, but I guess they will learn to live with it.

Edward, did you know this? The ECONOMIST found:

“At least five states require registration for people who visit prostitutes, 29 require it for consensual sex between young teenagers and 32 require it for indecent exposure. Some prosecutors are prosecuting teenagers for the ‘distributing child pornography’ called ‘sexting” via their cell phones."

Indecent exposure includes streaking, mooning, and public urination. I don't know about you, but I don't feel threatened because some guy got drunk during a frat party and jogged naked around the square or peed on the curb or some man visited a call girl. Teens sending pictures of themselves to other teens doesn't strike fear in my heart. How about we save our panic and fear for the 5.3% deemed dangerous and get the other 94.7% off the register and let them live in peace.

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Avatar for user 'richmck'

richmck | April 3, 2010 at 7:25 a.m. ― 6 years, 11 months ago

The prisons are not as overcrowded as claimed. The Governor and various Legislators frequently have claimed that prisons are dangerously overcrowded, operating at over 200% of capacity. The prison bed shortage, based on the independent Legislative Analysist (LAO) prison bed figures, is now only about 2,500 beds. The actual correctional system shortage is the 66,500 county jail bed shortage reported in a 2006 analysis by the California Sheriffs Association (CSA), not in the prison system. If the jail bed shortage were dealt with, prisons would have a huge prison bed surplus.

Without providing any analytical basis or even commenting on the LAO facts, the Governor and Legislature passed AB 900 for construction of 40,000 prison beds. New prison beds will probably be used for 40 to 50 years or longer. It will take years to bring the new prison beds on-line and, according to the LAO, will result in a 32,000 prison bed surplus by 2012.

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Avatar for user 'buchanan'

buchanan | April 3, 2010 at 8:10 a.m. ― 6 years, 11 months ago

Sorry richmck,

Your post doesn't hold water. Have you actually been to a prison?
It was not the Governor and various Legislators who claim the prisons are overcrowded, it was three federal judges. They ruled that inmates were dying due to the overcrowded conditions. Many testified including correctional officers. Thousands of inmates have been sent out of state.
The choice is ours, either invest in our youth, our schools, or we can become the land of prisons. Prisons are backed by big business, and growing.
We already have more prisoners than anyone in the nation or world.
Also, the early release that they have proposed is directly related. Low level, non violent, Prison inmates can earn 6 weeks off their sentence. Yet, big buisness is screaming bloody murder. Why, because this effects their pocketbook. I suggest you do some homework.

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Avatar for user 'socalnoni'

socalnoni | April 4, 2010 at 7:56 a.m. ― 6 years, 11 months ago

Since males are the vast majority of sex offenders and likely to end up in prison should they make mistakes it isn't rocket science to suggest that they need to most education.

#1. We need to drum it into boys heads from the time they are old enough to understand that they DO NOT TOUCH or take what isn't theirs, that NO means NO and what WILL happen if they purposely get a girl drunk in order to have sex with them. We teach them about urges and behaviors that WILL land them in prison. And to stress that point, since date rape on campuses is rampant, take them to prison to show them what to expect.

#2. We educate boys and girls on the ages of consent and just what that means to boys/men if they break that law and that ignorance is NOT a defense.

#3 Educate as to the laws if they BREAK them.

Since females, in large part, make up the majority of victims of sex offenders.

#1. Stress to them that no one EVER has the right to touch them, that NO really does mean NO. This male means family (and friends of family) members as well.

#2. Educate honestly and early that unfortunately there are those people in their communities, that wish to do them harm.

#3. Martial arts instruction from the time they start walking.

education and Honesty early on is the best policy

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Avatar for user 'Tusau'

Tusau | April 7, 2010 at 10:35 a.m. ― 6 years, 11 months ago

Article after article that I have read, focuses on the results of “leaving the barn door open,” instead of preventing the sex offender problem in the first place. The tragic child molestation stories, of course, are sensational content for the TV, radio, and Internet broadcasts, increasing their ratings by pondering to hysteria brought on by these unfortunate events.

The argument that “prisons are full” is another simple excuse that legislators and law enforcement communicate to the public to defend their unsuccessful progress in preventing these herendous crimes.

Focusing on laws we have is one form of prevention. However, for this focus to be effective, legislators must DEVELOP A SEX REGISTRY FOR ONLY THOSE HIGH RISK, DANGEROUS OFFENDERS so they can direct those laws, resources and monitoring only on the 5.3% who are really dangerous. Washington State's sex offender comprehensive counseling programs really work.

Ms. Penner seems resigned at the end of her article by saying “the story goes on” when she should be writing articles that demand that law enforcement do its job by preventing these dangerous person from committing these crimes in the first place.

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Avatar for user 'suetiggers'

suetiggers | April 11, 2010 at 8:22 p.m. ― 6 years, 11 months ago

You make a lot of sense, so that means not enough attention will be paid to the truth of what you say. If they started working on making our justice system more just and getting all the people out of our prisons who do not belong there, because they are not violent, the prisons would not be so packed. If all the people in there for minor weed offenses, if all the wrongly convicted were not in there (and there are many more of these than most people know....plea bargains assure that there's a steady stream of people who do some violation of parole to go right back in) and then most people who think and read know the comments about people of color being disproportionately represented were not, well, there'd be plenty of room for seriously dangerous people. (course, the racist bigots among us truly believe all those of color are there cause they belong there..and I am white)...

Does anybody even CARE that the big majority of people now on these
registries are NOT DANGEROUS, ARE NOT INTERESTED IN CHILDREN. Isn't there a big difference between someone who is interested in a 10 yr. old and a 15 or 16 yr. old (who is consenting and very possibly lying about their age ??) ] But those with closed minds, who love to hate won't know this truth about the registries, don't want to know that. Lump everyone together, keep putting more and more people on the registry..That's their answer. I'm sure the truly dangerous pedophiles like Garrido love it...bloated registries filled with the non dangerous sex offenders help hide them for how many years, was it??? The cry is make them tougher. That means more of the same...Is quantity quality. The quality of these registries is pathetic.

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