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August 25, 2010

California about to get tougher on sex offenders

As detailed in this CNN story, which is headlined "California Senate passes tougher sentencing laws for sex offenders," a high-profile crime appears to be the impetus for another round of get-tough changes to sentencing laws in California.  Here are the basics:

A bill that seeks to increase prison sentences and extend parole terms in California for certain sex crimes against minors was passed in a unanimous vote by the state Senate on Tuesday.

"Chelsea's Law" -- named after 17-year-old Chelsea King, who was raped and murdered by a convicted sex offender this year -- will go to the State Assembly next week for a vote.  If it passes, it will go to the desk of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has already lent support to the legislation formally know as AB 1844.

King disappeared February 25 during a jog in a suburban San Diego park, sparking a massive search that ended a few days later with the discovery of her body.  Registered sex offender John Gardner pleaded guilty in April to killing her and another San Diego-area teen, Amber Dubois, in a deal that spared him the death penalty.

The case set off a firestorm of debate over the management of sex offenders in California, with King's parents lending their voices to legislative efforts.  "The heartbreaking loss of Chelsea earlier this year revealed a broken public safety system, and it called our entire community and our entire state to action.  With the King family's unwavering dedication and with the good faith of many who contributed to shaping this measure, we've built a solution that will protect children and spare other families from tragedy," Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, the bill's sponsor, said in a statement.

But Chelsea's Law also has its detractors.  They argue it advocates a one-size-fits-all approach to punishing sexual offenses and that its fiscal implications are too much for the cash-strapped state to bear.

Supporters of Chelsea's Law, which include California Attorney General Jerry Brown and U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, say it targets the worst of the worst with provisions such as one-strike life without parole sentencing and lifetime parole for certain sex offenses against children younger than 14.

Among the crimes that could carry potential sentences of life without parole under the proposed legislation: rape, lewd and lascivious acts on a minor, continuous sexual abuse of a child that were committed during a kidnapping, first-degree burglary or that resulted in great bodily injury.  Offenders could also face a true life sentence for inflicting "aggravated mayhem or torture on the victim" in the commission of the offense.

The bill also requires lifetime parole and GPS supervision with no possibility of discharge for crimes including continuous sexual abuse of a child and certain sex crimes on children younger than 14.

The proposed legislation also would make it a misdemeanor for a registered sex offender who committed a felony offense to enter any park where children regularly gather without written permission from a parole official or chief park official.  It also calls for a revision of the California mentally disordered offender laws to provide for continued detention of offenders where evaluation and assessment deem such to be necessary.

Critics of the bill call it a blanket approach that pushes sex offenders further to the fringes of society without addressing the root causes of sexual offenses.

August 25, 2010 at 09:17 AM | Permalink


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The victim in this case was 17. She was jogging at the time she was attacked, in a public park -- not necessarily in a playground or other area that would be off-limits under the new law. She could just as well have been on a sidewalk. It's entire possible that this crime would have occurred even if the new GPS and lifetime parole provisions had been in place already. I cannot begin to imagine the cost in real dollars of all these lifetime supervisions. Even worse, this is one more step down the road of permanently prohibiting sex offenders from reintegrating into society. If we make it impossible for sex offenders to live anywhere (because of residency restrictions), work anywhere, and have any hope of an end to their scarlet letter -- no matter how successful their rehabilitation may be -- we are going to create a very dangerous class of people with nothing to lose. I feel like we are not far away from a modern-day leper colony, where sex offenders are sent to some kind of internment camp forever.

Nobody disputes the seriousness of sex crimes against children. The question is, are these draconian measures actually effective deterrents, or would some of this money be better spent on REAL treatment?

Posted by: sal | Aug 25, 2010 1:38:27 PM

The above information about parks is incorrect. Yes, that was the original legislation, however, it was ameneded to be offenders on parole banned from parks, and the ban lifted after parole has been exhausted.

Posted by: Jim | Aug 25, 2010 3:00:25 PM

Well said sal, this legislation is going to be just further disenfranchising registered sex offenders. They have already got out of prison, but I bet that they don't feel like it. Thats money that could be better spent in prevention, counseling and awareness. Unfortunately, it is also extending punishment to those who already have been sentenced, but not served out their full punishment. That is similar to SB10 in Ohio, and see where that got? Unfortunately, in the meantime while the courts 'sort it out' lives are being put on hold. Why release them if they can't live?

Posted by: tbucket | Aug 25, 2010 5:31:46 PM

Even if this law was in effect, what would it do to prevent a person who is that far gone??? This guy raped and killed a human being. That has been illegal since the beginning of time, yet those laws and any fiber of morality inside of him didn't stop him from raping and killing this girl. So, what in the hell is a stupid little law making it illegal to go to a park going to do??? AND, the law is just for people on parole which means it's moot. All they have to do to keep parolees out of parks is to have DOC make the parole officers tell their parolees to stay out of parks. Make it a term of their parole...that's it! I am SO effing sick of these stupid politicians using the blood of dead victims to further their career and then making the tax payer fit the bill. And the sheeple cheer and clap. Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid....

Posted by: George | Aug 26, 2010 6:09:12 AM

I am a RSO in Caiifornia.
"Supporters of Chelsea's Law, which include California Attorney General Jerry Brown and U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, say it targets the worst of the worst with provisions such as one-strike life without parole sentencing and lifetime parole for certain sex offenses against children younger than 14."
This law might backfire. The 'worst of the worst' might just decide there isn't any upside to leaving any victim alive to testify. Laws have never prevented a crime they only allow for retribution and punishment.

Posted by: Dry_6 | Aug 26, 2010 10:51:13 AM


where have i heard this before?

""Supporters of Chelsea's Law, which include California Attorney General Jerry Brown and U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, say it targets the worst of the worst"

oh WAIT it was in the mid 90's when another retard president passed the original registry law....."

NOW of course it's tracking people 24/7 who havent' comitted a new crime in 20 YEARS!

Posted by: rodsmith | Aug 26, 2010 11:31:04 PM

Revenge and retribution don't work. If we would demand as much from our laws as we do from a used car...well, never mind. Pardon me, I forget that law has nothing to do with peace, justice, or restoring balance to any , much less all. Just fear alleviation and rejection of scapegoats. Another example of "peasants with torches and pitch-forks".

Posted by: Throsso | Aug 27, 2010 11:19:33 AM






Posted by: arek | Aug 30, 2010 2:11:21 AM

Public fear of sex offenders is spurring a wave of tougher laws this year, both
in Congress and statehouses nationwide.

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