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California Loosens Jessica's Law Provision on Where Sex Offenders Can Live

On Thursday March 27, California lawmakers announced that the state will officially stop enforcement of a key provision of Jessica's Law that limits where registered sex offenders are allowed to live. Here are some facts about yesterday's announcement:

  • The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) will not enforce blanket restrictions that prohibit all sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park.
  • The loosening of enforcement was made in order to focus only on high-risk offenders whose crimes involved children under 14. These offenders will still be prohibited from living within a half-mile of a school.
  • Officials will continue to assess parolees and offenders to determine appropriate living restrictions.

Jessica's law - also known as Proposition 83: Sexual Predator Punishment and Control Act - was passed by 70% of California voters in 2006. It was intended to protect youth and communities by preventing convicted offenders with a history of sex crimes from living near schools or any place where children gather.

Jessica's law sparked criticism for imposing tough living restrictions against all registered sex offenders, regardless of the nature of their crimes. It also effectively blocked offenders from living in vast majorities of California cities.

Offenders argued that the law made it exceedingly difficult to find housing, and that it led to homelessness in some cases, which also posed concerns to communities. In fact, a CDCR report found that homelessness among registered sex offenders increased by 24 times in the first three years since the law took effect. Jessica's law was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of California on March 2nd.

Yesterday's announcement is a significant change to policies regarding sex offenders in California communities. Officials stress that the decision was made in response to the Supreme Court decision and the fact that the court determined residency restrictions infringed on offenders' constitutional rights to be free of unreasonable, arbitrary, and oppressive government oversight.

Although lawmakers, officials, and experts have assisted in loosening the living restrictions of Jessica's Law, it is important to remember that individuals convicted of sex crimes still face some of the harshest penalties and consequences in our criminal justice system. This includes mandatory sex offender registration, public release of information, and many other restrictions - not to mention the social ramifications of having such a conviction on one's record.