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Editors Discuss Chelsea’s Law, State Prisons Plan

Your browser does not support this object. View the original here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oiNa0BelIQ0

Video published September 3, 2010 | Download MP4 | View transcript

Above: The editors will discuss the impact Chelsea's Law could have on California's ability to prosecute violent sex offenders and the state's overcrowded prison system. We'll also discuss a controversial budget proposal to send some state prisoners to county jails.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

EARLIER THIS WEEK, THE CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE HIT A DEADLINE AND SENT ALMOST 100 BILLS TO THE GOVERNOR FOR HIS SIGNATURE. AMONG THE STACK ON HIS DESK IS CHELSEA'S LAW TO TOUGHEN PENALTIES AGAINSTSELF OFFENDERS. DO THESE TOUGH ARE LAWS PRODUCE THE EXPECTED RESULTS? WITH ME TO TALK ABOUT THAT ARE DAVID ROWLAND EDITOR OF SAN DIEGO CITY BEAT AND JOHN WARRANT FROM THE SAN DIEGO VOICE AND VIEWPOINT. SO JOHN, CHELSEA'S LAW WAS NAMED FOR CHELSEA KING, WHO WAS RAPED AND MURDERED BY A SEX OFFENDER. WHAT WOULD IT DO?

THE MOST OUTSTANDING THING ABOUT IT IS IT MAKES LIFE IMPRISONMENT WITHOUT THE POSSIBILITY OF PAROLE THE END RESULT OF A CONVICTION FOR SUCH A CRIME AGAINST A CHILD. AND I THINK THAT'S THE BIG PART. A LOT OF WHAT WE'RE LOOKING AT WAS ALREADY ON THE BOOKS. OF COURSE, IT ADDS TO THIS SITUATION OF WHAT DO WE DO WITH THESE PEOPLE? THAT IS A MAJOR INGREDIENT THAT THINGS ARE TIGHTENED UP IN INTERPRETS OF HOW WE HANDLE THEM.

WE ALREADY HAVE ONE LAW ON THE BOOKS THAT'S ALREADY BEEN NAMED FOR ANOTHER SAD STORY, TEENAGER, JESSICA'S LAW. IT'S IN EFFECT. HOW HAS THAT TIGHTENED RESTRICTIONS ON SEX OFFENDERS?

A MAJOR PROVISION OF JESSICA'S LAW PASSED IN 2006 IS THAT IT RESTRICTS PAROLEES, WHO HAVE BEEN RELEASED FROM PRISON FOR SEX CRIMES. IT RESTRICTS WHERE THEY CAN LIVE. IT SAYS THEY CAN'T LIVE WITHIN 2,000 FEET OF SCHOOLS AND PARKS AND THINGS LIKE THAT. SO THAT HAS HAD THE UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCE OF MAKING A LOT OF PEOPLE HOMELESS. ALL THESE PAROLEES WHO ARE COMING OUT OF PRISON WHO CAN'T LIVE, YOU KNOW, CLOSE TO SCHOOLS AND PARKS. THERE'S REALLY NOT VERY MANY PLACES WHERE THEY CAN LIVE SO THERE'S BEEN A BASICALLY A 6,000% INCREASE IN HOMELESSNESS AMONG SEX OFFENDER PAROLEES.

JOHN, SOME PEOPLE FIND IT HARD TO SYMPATHIZE WITH THE PLIGHT OF HOMELESS SEX OFFENDERS. HOW MIGHT HOMELESSNESS CONTRIBUTE TO THE RISK TO SOCIETY?

IT DOES SO IN A NUMBER OF WAYS. FIRST OF ALL IT MAKES TRACKING OF THE INDIVIDUALS MORE DIFFICULT BECAUSE THEY DON'T HAVE FIX ADDRESSES NUMBER ONE. THEN WE KNOW THAT IT ADDS TO A SENSE OF STABILITY WHICH BRINGS ON INCREASED MENTAL ILLNESS AND POSSIBILITIES OF REPEATED OFFENSES BECAUSE THEY ARE UNSTABLE. THAT ADDS TO IT SO THE GWENS ARE INCREASED IN TERMS OF THE PEOPLE BEING WITHOUT SUPERVISION.

Reporter: SO DO YOU THINK THAT NOW THAT WE KNOW THERE ARE UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES, WHICH BY THE WAY WAS WRITTEN ABOUT IN SAN DIEGO CITY BEAT THAT WE MIGHT SEE CHANGES THAT MAYBE THE AUTHOR OF THE BILL OF CHELSEA'S LAW MIGHT MAKE SOME CHANGES?

YEAH. IT'S IMPORTANT TO NOTE THAT CHELSEA'S LAW WHILE AS JOHN SAID IT INCREASES PRISON TERMS AND ALSO INCREASES PAROLE TERMS. SO WITHOUT AMENDING JESSICA'S LAW, YOU HAVE A SITUATION WHERE YOU UNDER SOME CASES EXTENDING PAROLE TO CERTAIN OFFENDERS FOR LIFE, WHICH CAN MEAN THAT YOU ARE CREATING THIS INSTABILITY THAT JOHN TALKED ABOUT FOR SOMEBODY A'S WHOLE LIFETIME. NOW, NATHAN FLETCHER, THE ASSEMBLYMAN WHO CRAFTED CHELSEA'S LAW UNDERSTOOD A LOT OF THESE THINGS, BUT HE HE WAS NOT ABLE TO AMEND JESSICA'S LAW. HE SAID HE WOULD HAVE LIKED TO, BUT HE SAID HE COULDN'T GET THE KIND OF TRACTION THAT HE NEEDED FROM GOVERNOR SCHWARZENEGGER.

RIGHT. I UNDERSTAND THAT THIS MAY BE IN THE COURTS NOW. WE MAY FIND THAT THE RESIDENCY REQUIREMENTS ARE STAYED IF NOT COMPLETELY NULLIFIED. SO ON ANOTHER ISSUE STILL UNRESOLVED BY THE LEGISLATURE AND GOVERNOR IS A PLAN TO REDUCE THE STATE PRISON POPULATION, BUT LOCAL OFFICIALS ARE EXPECTING A MAJOR IMPACT ON COUNTY JAILS. JOHN, WHATTANCE THE BASIC REASON THAT THE STATE IS LOOKING TO REDUCE ITS PRISON POPULATION?

YOU HAVE TWO THINGS HAPPENING. THE STATE IS UNDER A SPECIAL MASTER IN TERMS OF REDUCING THE PRISON POPULATION, WHICH IS APPROXIMATELY 160,000 PEOPLE. THEY CONTRACTED US OUT TO OTHER STATES AND PRIVATE ENTITIES. THEY ARE LOOKING AT PUTTING SOME IN OTHER COULDN'TIES. INIZATION COUNTIES, THERE ARE 1,000 OR 800 BEDS NOT BEING USED. THERE IS A QUESTION NOW THAT WE ACCEPT THE PEOPLE COMING FROM THE STATE WHICH WOULD REDUCE THE NUMBERS OR WILL THIS BECOME A PART OF THE EARLY RELEASE PROGRAM? THERE ARE TWO DIFFERENT ISSUES HERE. EARLY RELEASE AS OPPOSED TO HOUSING SOME SERIOUS OFFENDERS. WE'RE CONCERNED ABOUT WHAT THE IMPACT WOULD BE ON COUNTY RESOURCES.

THAT CONCERN WAS REITERATED BY THE SHERIFF BILL GORE AND THE SUPERVISORS. WHY ARE THEY CONCERNED ABOUT HAVING STATE PRISONERS HOUSED IN COUNTY JAIL?

I DID SOME REPORTING ON THIS LAST YEAR WHEN WE WERE TALKING ABOUT REDUCING THE STATE PRISON POPULATION, AND AT THAT TIME, THE STATE CONSIDERED SAN DIEGO COUNTY JAILS TO BE AT 113% OF CAPACITY, MEANING OVERCAPACITY. NOW, THAT IS USING THE STATE'S ASSESSMENT OF HOW FULL THESE JAILS SHOULD BE. THIS RECENTLY BILL GORE HAS SAID, WELL, WE'RE A LITTLE BIT UNDER 5,000, AND THAT'S ABOUT CAPACITY. SO THE PROBLEM HERE IS IF YOU ADD A HUNDREDTH OF NEW INMATES AT THE COUNTY JAILS, YOU REACHED THAT CAPACITY WHICH NOT ONLY BRINGS UP FUNDING ISSUES BUT POSSIBLE LIT SAME KINDS OF ISSUES THAT THEY ARE DEALING WITH AT THE STATE IN TERMS OF THE KIND OF CRUEL AND UNUSUAL PUNISHMENT WHEN YOU DON'T HAVE ADEQUATE CARE AND ADEQUATE ROOM FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE HOUSED IN THESE FACILITIES.

DAVID, THAT IS AN INTERESTING POINT. THAT PRISON POPULATION IN THE LOCAL COUNTY JAILS COULD SHIFT ONE WAY OR THE OTHER DEPENDING ON HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE SENT TO JAIL AT ONE PARTICULAR POINT. SO CAN WE REALLY COUNT ON UNDERCAPACITY FOR A LONG TIME?

NO, WE CAN'T. WHEN IT FIRST STARTED, SAN DIEGO COUNTY RELEASED OVER 260 PEOPLE WHO WERE NONVALID OFFENDERS AND WHO WERE SHORT TIMERS AND YET WE HAVE PEOPLE COMING THROUGH THE SYSTEM EACH DAY. ANYTHING THE STATE IS TRYING TO GIVE US IN THIS BUDGET CRISIS IS NOT GOING TO ADD TO OUR REVENUE IS GOING TO COST US. IF WE TAKE ALL THAT THEY GIVE US, WE WON'T HAVE SPACE FOR THE PEOPLE WE HAVE NORMALLY COMING THROUGH THE SYSTEM.

BRIEFLY, WE'RE TALKING ABOUT MONEY, RIGHT?

MONEY.

ISN'T IT ALL PUBLIC FUNDS? WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE WHETHER IT'S COMING FROM THE STATE OR THE COUNTY?

THAT'S A GREAT POINT. WE HAVE A SITUATION LIKE IN THE CITY OF SAN DIEGO, WHICH CAN'T AFFORD ITS PRESENTATION SYSTEM. A LOT OF PEOPLE HAVE HEARD ABOUT THAT. WE REALLY, THE STATE CAN'T AFFORD ITS CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM GIVEN THE AMOUNT OF REVENUE THAT COMES IN. SO WHETHER YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT THE STATE PRISON SYSTEM OR THE COUNTY JAIL SYSTEM, YOU ARE RIGHT. IT'S ALL PUBLIC MONEY AND WE DON'T HAVE ENOUGH OF IT.

THANK YOU VERY MUCH. APPRECIATE IT, DAVID ROWLAND AND JOHN WARREN.

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