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California Housing Restrictions Relaxed For Some Sex Offenders

California Housing Restrictions Relaxed For Some Sex Offenders

The California Department of Corrections has changed its policy of prohibiting all sex offenders from living near parks, schools and other places where children congregate.

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The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation moved last week to ease statewide restrictions on where registered sex offenders can live.

The housing restriction portion of Jessica's Law, a ballot measure voters approved in 2006, will now only apply to parolees whose crimes involved children and other high-risk sex offenders as determined on a case-by-case basis.

The change comes after a state Supreme Court ruling struck down the part of Jessica's Law that prohibited all sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of parks, schools, day cares and other places where children congregate. The case originated in San Diego County.

The court's argument is that the restriction violates constitutional rights and limits offenders' access to housing.

Alex Simpson, an associate professor at California Western School of Law, said the housing restrictions in Jessica's Law didn't make kids any safer. It actually increased societal problems such as homelessness, he said.

“The problems are inherent in the policy itself,” Simpson told KPBS Midday Edition on Monday. “There were a number of people living people in the alley behind the parole office because they couldn’t find housing.”

Susan Fisher, a legislative advocate for Citizens Against Homicide, a victims-rights group, said that while she supports the death penalty and three strikes laws, she has always thought Jessica's Law was poorly written.

"Legislation written in response to an incident is almost never good legislation," Fisher said. "I foresaw problems with keeping track of offenders once they were out of jail."

Fisher said she worked with many sex offenders who couldn’t find a place to live.

“So it made us less stable and it made us less safe,” she said.

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