Editorial: No on Proposition 83
It provides a false sense of security

Published 12:00 am PDT Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Sex offenders who prey on children are every parent's nightmare, and understandably so. Unfortunately, the fear they evoke makes them the bogeyman of choice for pandering politicians. What better targets for candidates in search of an easy issue to demagogue?

Proposition 83 is a case in point. Despite Proposition 83's title -- the Sex Offenders, Sexually Violent Predators, Punishment, Residence Restrictions and Monitoring Initiative Statute -- it would do nothing to protect children. 

Among other things, the proposition would increase sentences, require lifelong monitoring for some offenders and further restrict where registered sex offenders could live.

If approved, it would cost hundreds of millions of dollars -- money that would be better spent on child care programs, expanding health care for poor families or improving educational opportunities.

Extremely dangerous sexual predators, including repeat rapists and criminals who sexually assault children 14 years and younger, already face sentences of 15 or 25 years to life in prison. Longer sentences for less dangerous offenders -- possessors of child pornography, for example -- will only further crowd already overcrowded prisons and drive up out-of-control prison costs.

The initiative imposes lifelong monitoring for registered felony sex offenders by requiring the use of global positioning systems, or GPS. In the Proposition 83 campaign, supporters invoke the name of Jessica Lunsford, the 9-year-old Florida girl who was kidnapped, assaulted and buried alive by a registered sex offender. But nothing in this initiative would prevent those intent upon harming children from removing their GPS devices and committing crimes.

Moreover, the proposition requires not just the monitoring of child molesters, but of all felony sex offenders released from prison. Opponents note correctly that this would mean monitoring at a high cost tens of thousands of ex-prisoners who don't pose any serious risk, leaving fewer resources available for high risk offenders who need to be watched. The Legislative Analyst's Office pegs the cost of such monitoring at "about $100 million annually after 10 years" and growing substantially after that. The initiative is not clear about who would pay the extra hundreds of millions of dollars -- the state, which has a deficit, or the financially strapped local governments.

Finally, the measure mandates tougher restrictions on where all registered sex offenders may live. Currently, a small percentage, mostly those who have committed crimes against children, cannot reside within 1,320 feet of a school. This initiative would expand it to all registered sex offenders, add parks to the restriction and expand the radius to 2,000 feet.

In other states, such laws have backfired, pushing sex offenders into sparsely populated rural and suburban neighborhoods where law enforcement is thin and where counseling, psychiatric and other social services that many mentally disordered offenders need are in short supply or nonexistent. The same is likely to happen in California.

Proposition 83 is, in short, costly and counterproductive. Sadly, politicians who know better are afraid to tell voters the truth. Voters should see through this deception and vote No on Proposition 83.

 Jessica's Law . . .No Way!

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