Monday, March 19, 2007

California Summit for Safe Communities Convenes to Discuss Solutions for Housing for Sex Offenders

SACRAMENTO - More than 350 state and local officials participated in the first-ever California Summit for Safe Communities today to discuss the challenges that communities face regarding the release and placement of High Risk Sex Offenders (HRSO) and Sexually Violent Predators (SVP). The summit was convened as a recommendation of the High Risk Sex Offender and Sexually Violent Predator Task Force, formed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006 to resolve conflicts in finding suitable housing for sex offenders on parole. It was one of a number of recommendations toward developing a statewide system to improve policies related to the placement, supervision and monitoring of high risk sex offenders in local communities to enhance public safety.

The partners organizing the summit include the League of California Cities, California State Association of Counties, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), California Health & Human Services Agency, Assembly Member Todd Spitzer's Office, the California Apartment Association, and the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault. Participants include representatives from cities and counties, local law enforcement, state agencies, mental health, social services, prevention services, and victims' organizations. The summit provides an opportunity for these various constituencies to discuss issues and specific concerns about placement of sex offenders in communities, and to develop collaborative solutions regarding HRSO and SVP community reentry.

Governor Schwarzenegger was the luncheon speaker at today's summit. The event also included presentations and panel discussions on issues such as:

  • Notification of sex offender placement, processes for placement and importance of placement;
  • Victim interaction with re-entry of offenders;
  • HRSO Task Force history, and the status of task force recommendations;
  • Sex offender management while on parole;
  • The private housing market and the relation to housing sex offenders; and,
  • Practices for ensuring effective notification and release.
"In order to better protect the public from sex offenders who are released after serving their prison sentences it is crucial that local community officials and law enforcement leaders are engaged in decisions about where they will live," said Jim Tilton, CDCR Secretary. "There are laws and policies in place that require sex offenders to return to their home communities when they are released. This summit is one more step in building a partnership that will help to ensure these offenders are placed and monitored in a coordinated manner so that they pose the least threat possible to public safety."

CDCR supervises approximately 10,000 parolees from state prison who are sex offenders, of which about 3,200 have been designated high risk. However, those 10,000 parolees represent only approximately ten percent of the sex offenders registered in the state. In addition to parolees from prison, sex offenders also re-enter the community through county probation and jail systems.

The summit was intended to educate the attendees on this population, build collaboration between state and local governments, develop alternative methods of identifying appropriate housing for sex offenders, and develop procedures that would incorporate opinions of local law enforcement. Sex offenders pose unique public safety problems, and are consequently subject to limitations and restrictions on where they can live, including the recently enacted Proposition 83, commonly known as Jessica's Law. Under its provisions, sex offenders are prohibited from living near schools, parks and other locations where children congregate. The summit provided an opportunity for interested parties to discuss successful strategies and challenges for implementing this and other new laws.

"Sex offenders are rightfully under the biggest microscope and on the shortest leash of any group of parolees," said Secretary Tilton. "Finding suitable housing for sex offenders will allow law enforcement to better monitor and supervise all sex offenders even after their parole term has ended."

The HRSO Summit was one of a number of recommendations made by the taskforce that CDCR has already put into practice. Others include:
  • Clinical evaluation of sex offenders within six months of scheduled completion of their sentences to identify those considered to pose a higher than normal risk to public safety;
  • Advance notice to local law enforcement before a sex offender is placed in an area under parole;
  • Use of the four-way "containment model" to supervise and restrict sex offenders on parole. That model includes strict supervision by parole agents, the use of Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) systems to monitor the movements of sex offenders, mandatory therapy and the use of polygraph testing during personal visits by parole agents; and,
  • Creation of a Sex Offender Management Board, comprised of sheriff, police, district attorneys and other experts, to guide CDCR's policies regarding high risk sex offenders.
View more information on the summit, the Governor's HRSO Task Force, and other sex offender management resources at: http://www.gov.ca.gov/.

More High Risk Sex Offender Resources