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SPECIAL COVERAGE: Living With Wildfires: San Diego Firestorm 10 Years Later

Convicted Sex Offenders Petition For Changes To Jessica’s Law

Audio

The number of homeless sex offenders has increased dramatically since Jessica's Law passed in 2006. The law prevents convicted sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or a park. We discuss why the law's requirements are making it difficult for sex offenders to find places to live, and why some convicted sex offenders in San Diego are challenging the law's residence restrictions.

The number of homeless sex offenders has increased dramatically since Jessica's Law passed in 2006. The law prevents convicted sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or a park. We discuss why the law's requirements are making it difficult for sex offenders to find places to live, and why some convicted sex offenders in San Diego are challenging the law's residence restrictions.

Guests

David Rolland, editor of San Diego CityBeat

Kent Davy, editor of the North County Times

JW August, managing editor for 10 News

Read 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.

PENNER: A few months ago, Editors Roundtable, featured a segment on the unintended consequences of the 2006 California proposition called Jessica's law. It requires that sex offenders who are paroled cannot live within 2000 feet of a school or a park. A group of San Diego parolees are arguing that the residential restrictions of Jessica's law have driven them into homelessness. So David, this week, hearings were held on that complaint. Who's holding the hearings for what purpose?

ROLLAND: Well, the hearings were basically compelled by the Public Defender's Office. And responsible Public Defender Laura Arnold, who has sort of been a Crusader on behalf of parolees, many of whom -- well, I think all of whom were paroled after -- their sex offenses happened years and years and years ago, but because they committed another offense, they were paroled after Jessica's law came into effect, and sort of got swept into its residence restrictions. And so four of them, she was representing four of them in court this week who were petitioning the Court for relief from the residence restrictions. Of.

PENNER: Okay. So the essence of this -- these complaints were what?

ROLLAND: That it's sort of cruel and unusual punishment to be driven into homelessness of it's like you said, we use the headliner, unintended consequences of and that's what this is. So they're being driven into homelessness because under Jessica's law, you can't live within 2000 feet of a school or a park. And that wipes out, actually, much of the land mass of the State of California. Particularly in urban areas. So what happened after Jessica's law? Before Jessica's law, there was I believe 88 sex offenders parolees state wide who were considered homeless. And afterward, or now, there are nearly -- over 5000 of them. So it has --

PENNER: Where? Where?

ROLLAND: All over the state.

PENNER: In California.

ROLLAND: In San Diego, there are well over a hundred of them that Laura Arnold knows about. And so what happened was last year in Los Angeles, they petitioned hundreds of them petitioned the Courts to -- for relief from Jessica's law's restrictions. The Supreme Court ultimately ruled that the law could be applied retroactively. However, they said -- the Court said we're not saying that these people cannot petition. So what was basically happening in this court this week in San Diego was the Public Defender's Office was creating sort of a record, basically establishing a record for this case to go forward. It'll probably eventually get back to the state Supreme Court, where it will have to rule again. And in the case of these four parolees, a local judge will rule on their specific petitions. But it's really -- these are sort of test cases for a larger group of people who have become homeless because of this of.

PENNER: JW, before I go to you on this, I want to ask our listeners, okay, now here you have it laid out, according to David Rolland and his reporting and the staff's reporting, Jessica's law pushes sense offenders into homelessness because they can't live within 2000 feet of a school or a park, and that makes it really tough in urban areas to find a place to live. Do you think Jessica's law should be changed? Do you think it should be amended or do you think it should be abolished? Our number is 1-888-895-5727. 895 KPBS. JW?

AUGUST: Yeah, I -- y'all sent me the CityBeat article to read before this -- we had the show today, and I read it, and when I was done, I was really conflicted. Because it -- you read this, and you feel for these guys, but it's, hey, they're human beings. But -- and then you wrestle with this, well, they're pedophiles. But were they -- were their victims children?

ROLLAND: But they're not, and their victims aren't children. The people that Laura Arnold is representing, their victims were never children. Which was the intent of Jessica's law.

AUGUST: It radio, right exactly.

PENNER: JW.

AUGUST: And I'm not disagreeing with that at all. Anyway, it got me thinking about a story we had done where we had found four pedophiles living -- not pedophiles, sense offenders, living in a hotel off of Rosecranz. And why were they in that particular place? First we were shocked because the hotel was trying to track tourism traffic for sea world. But there was four offenders in the hotel, and the hotel staff would not tell families coming in there who was there. That was our first story. Then we did our second story, and we went to the probation department and looked at the map for the city, you start seeing where are these guys gonna stay? Because it closes everything down, and it turned out, if you want to live in any part of the city in that area around Rosecrans, you had to live in that hotel or out in the parking lot because there's no other place for these guys to go. So when we're done with that story, reading the City Beat story brought that conflict up to me again, that, hey, well, what do you do here?

ROLLAND: I need to comment on that story, the first story was outrageously sensational. The second story was better. It provide provided a lot more context. It's important to note, we don't know what these four men did. Actually, I know what one of them kid. Nathan Moore was convicted in 1982, 29 years ago, of a sexual assault, I believe on an adult woman. So that was 29 years ago. Then subsequent to that, he -- there was a petty theft, which -- and that is why he is subject to Jessica's law's restrictions, because of a petty theft. Now he is diabetic and other he is an amputee in a wheel chair.

PENNER: Okay, well, with that, let's turn to our callers because we have some interesting comments and questions. From Kiera in Coronado. Kiera, you're on with the editors.

NEW SPEAKER: Hi, thanks for taking my call.

PENNER: Yes, go ahead. Of.

NEW SPEAKER: Okay, I have a question, why don't they just limit the 2000 feet law from parks and schools for sex offenders that only have cases against children and of the sort? Not people who are, you know, doing things to full-grown adults because obviously adults are not the ones that are in that law?

PENNER: Okay. Thank you very much, Kiera. Do you have a response for that Kent Davy?

DAVY: Yeah, I think part of the problem with this statement, this is true of many other states as well, the sexual offense laws are written almost always in reaction to horrific crimes. The public and the legislatures, because it's easy to campaign on the bases of anti crime, over react and create what amounts to irrational legislative schemes that in fact don't make anybody safer. One of the unintended consequences of Jessica's law is to drive sex offenders outside of urban course to rural areas where they're much harder to keep track of. And if you were really gonna be -- try and fix something about this, I think you'd sit down and try and go across the board and do a number of fixes at the same time.

PENNER: Let's take one more very brief call, and then we'll get final comments of James from Point Loma, James will you make it brief please?

NEW SPEAKER: Yes, good morning, I will be brief. I just wanted to say that as a father, I really believe that Jess's law was put there for I really good reason. It was to protect the innocent victims. I understand the humanity of the situation. People need to find a place to live. But the truth of the matter is, these laws are put in place there for a reason. To protect the innocent. I think priority definitely needs to be given to that.

PENNER: Okay, thank you very much, James, gentlemen, I'm gonna ask for your final comments on this, we'll start with you David.

ROLLAND: James is missing the point. Prior to Jessica's law, there were restrictions that really only -- that dealt with people who were victimizing children. What Jessica's law did, and Kent's right, it was a response to a horrific crime. What it did was it was overly broad, now it is impacting people that were never intended to be impacted by this law. And the thing about homelessness is it makes it harder to manage sex offenders. So it makes it harder to rehabilitate people who need it because they become unstable.

PENNER: JW?

AUGUST: I think the mood in the state is it, they are gonna do something about the law, because I knowledge law enforcement and even politicians are realizing it was a reaction to a terrible crime. And it's now -- and there's unintended consequences when you do knee jerk legislation.

PENNER: Okay. So you get the very last word, Kent.

DAVY: And take a look in the brown budget and see who got whacked in terms of state employees. It is the parole officers who got whacked. And those duties are turned back down to the county and there will be even less -- fewer people watching people that we may want watched.

PENNER: Thank you very much, Kent Davy New York Times, from Ten News we thank JW August, and David Rolland who came to us from San Diego City beat. Thanks to our listen uppers and our callers, I'm Gloria Penner, this has been the Editors Roundtable on KPBS.

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