|Los Angeles Chronicle
Prop 83 Jessica’s Law Was Designed to Overflow Prisons
Long before the elections, I spoke of Conservative politicians posturing "tough on crime" and using fear tactics to get votes. One of the worst applications of this tactic was the writing of and campaigning for the initiative patterned after other "Jessica's Laws." State Senator George Runner and his wife, Senator Sharon Runner, Republicans - Lancaster (Los Angeles County) wrote the initiative and it was placed on the November 7 ballot as Proposition 83, in spite of these facts:
• It duplicated provisions of recently passed Senate Bill 1128.
• It contained false statistics on recidivism rates of sex offenders. Child molesters have less than 5% recidivism rates according to the Bureau of Justice, the lowest of all categories of crime.
• No place on the actual ballot did it mention "GPS devices for life” or any details about what would be required to enforce such a broad and redundant Proposition.
• Its language was vague on whether it could be enforced retroactively on sex offenders who have served their time, have completed their parole terms and now have homes, families, and jobs.
• It was deceitfully touted as a law targeting child molesters while in reality its vague language didn’t clearly differentiate between most sex offenders and those at highest risk of repeating their crimes. This means that the law could be used to track all 90,000 sex offenders in the state -- even those convicted of less-threatening crimes like indecent exposure, urinating outside, streaking, and a myriad of other minor crimes that fall under the PC 290 law.
• It did not take into account how it would be implemented or who would
foot the bill.
• Its writers and supporters ignored the widely publicized accounts by Iowa state officials of not only the dismal the failure of their Jessica’s law to protect children, but worse it caused Iowa law enforcement to lose track of 50 percent of the state’s sex offenders.
Proposition 83 prohibits all – minor and major -sexual offenders from
living within 2,000 feet of schools, parks or playgrounds; increases sentencing
and parole terms; and monitors their whereabouts of for life using satellite
tracked, GPS ankle bracelets. Its proponents publicized it as being targeted
to child kidnappers, rapists, and murders, but in reality it targets all
child molesters (90 percent of which are known and trusted by their victims)
and most sex offenders.
As the first person to oppose Jessica’s law in print, I published two columns in January and February 2006 that exposed Proposition 83 as purely political and, though costing the state millions per year in resources, would do nothing to reduce the incidence of child molestation. UNION members mobilized on many fronts for months to educate the public about the deceit behind this initiative, the unconstitutionality of its being enforced retroactively (ex post facto) and on broad categories of sex offenses. Read these earlier columns:
In addition, a Vote “No" on Jessica’s Law Prop 83 page on the UNION home page, was developed and regularly updated. UNION members wrote hundreds of letters to editors and hundreds more commentaries on articles and editorials statewide. They registered and educated voters everywhere they went.
UNION efforts brought the percentage of Yes votes down from 78 percent to 71 percent -- all with no financial resources whatsoever, simply with volunteer effort day after day. The families of the mentally ill do not have funds to effectively to advertising campaigns against the law enforcement labor unions that constantly oppress them for that very reason.
Our voices were heard, and by October, the editorial boards of dozens of the major California newspapers went on record as opposed to Proposition 83, in spite of the fact that unscrupulous politicians, including the two corporate candidates were in support.
Other organizations, such as the California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, Libertarian Party of California, San Francisco Democrats, California Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Progressive Jewish Alliance, Friends Committee on Legislation, Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, California Libertarian and Green Parties, and more, also stood opposed. Several crime victims groups were publishing letters of strong opposition as well.
At the last minute after prisoners began to be shipped out of State, even the California Correctional Peace Officers (CCPOA) President Mike Jimenez who put up $25,000 to the “Yes on 83” campaign withdrew support and called it “a bad law” even though the prison guards and all law enforcement clearly benefit from a fresh supply of humans being supplied to further worsen the prison crisis by such conveyor belt laws.
The list of opposition was still growing on November 7, and it continues to grow today because it is a giant step backwards to the scarlet letter days of the shame-and-blame puritan era that never was a deterrent to crimes commonly committed by the mentally ill.
On November 8, a federal judge blocked local enforcement of a provision forbidding past sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park. U.S. District Judge Susan Illston in San Francisco issued the temporary restraining order, which barred enforcement of the residency restrictions until November 27, when a hearing is scheduled before another judge on a preliminary injunction that would extend the ban.
By November 8, Judge Illston stated that Proposition 83 is likely unconstitutional because it is "punitive by design and effect." The same day, its main proponents admitted there are several unclear areas in its language -- some of which might only be amended by a supermajority of the Legislature. Local law enforcement officials are confused as to who will enforce the measure. They are especially confused about who will handle the GPS monitoring after a sex offender is off parole.
Proposition 83 did not say whether its restrictions would apply to California’s 100,000 registered sex offenders or would only affect future registrants. Senator George Runner says that the initiative was not intended to apply to anyone who has already served a sentence and registered as a sex offender, but only to those who are now in prison or who will be sentenced in the future. So, why did he not write it that way? Shame on George and Sharon Runner for using this emotional campaign to get her elected to the Assembly representing Lancaster which has one of the worst managed prisons in California.
Proposition 83 is simply a bad law, which should have never even been put on the ballot. Voters were misled by a fear-mongering, emotional campaign that amounted to nothing less than a witch hunt, Salem style, and deceived into thinking it would protect children from snatch-and-run predators. It will not. Instead it will unconstitutionally punish many others: mentally ill who could benefit from treatment, eighteen-year-old offenders who had sex with their seventeen-year-old girlfriends, older sex offenders who have served their time, been released from parole, and who have become law abiding citizens with families, jobs and support systems.
Snatch-and-run predators strike about once per year in each state and it is almost never from a park or a school yard. When a mentally ill person acts out their sickness in this way, even though it is extremely rare, it grabs the headlines. But it makes far more sense to invest in ways to prevent mental illness than to simply blindly punish wide categories of “offenders” who had nothing to do with child molestation whatsoever.
Most people don’t realize that a huge percentage of “child molesters” are teens age 13 to 17 years old, who simply made an error in judgment. Your child is in much greater danger of being falsely accused as a sex offender than they are of being molested by someone in your circle of family and friends although vigilance is always important.
Now we have a blustering new Attorney General Jerry Brown, the person responsible for the horrid indeterminate sentencing laws blustering that other categories of released prisoners should be strapped with these awkward GPS devices. Bush has promised funding to states who will use these contraptions that mark people, preventing them from ever being hired for work even though they may have committed a minor crime.
How will they support their families? There are at least one million women and children connected to a “sex offender” through family ties who would be uprooted, displaced and put into financial desperation by such a ridiculous and cruel bill. This will harm many more children than it could ever possibly protect, which is what the editorials penned by the crime victims groups emphasized again and again.
Imagine that the l.5 million people released from prison or jail in California alone all had these ugly, black devices strapped to them so that they cannot work a job and turn their lives around. The device can signal where the individual is located but it cannot tell what they’re doing. They’re already putting these on low level offenders who certainly cannot become productive citizens. When the batteries run low, many models cause a shock to remind its wearer to re-charge. The signal can be easily blocked with a piece of aluminum foil, even water causes them to malfunction meaning that the wearer cannot take a bath.
We will need dozens more prisons and the police mobilization required to enforce such ridiculousness will be the equivalent of Iraq. Which the whole idea when law enforcement put up the money to the Republican voting machine in the first place. The drug war will be minor compared to the dark ages that Jessica’s Law will throw us back into and none of it will help deter the tiny fraction of snatch-and-run child incidents as there never was any research conducted that proved the bill’s points.
The l.9 million plus voters who said “NO” to Jessica’s Law during the election were the intelligent ones who could not be duped by a Republican law enforcement labor union voting machine and GPS device manufacturers.
There is much work yet to be done to keep this bad law from being implemented and enforced. If you believe that children can be better protected by strengthening families and the prevention of the mental illness that is at the core of those who are actually guilty of serious crimes, please help us stand up and prevent the draining of hundreds of millions of dollars from our tax dollars that could be used in smarter ways. Your participation can prevent us from slipping back further into the dark ages as a people.
People who can write simple letters to editors, who will attend protests should that become necessary, who will attend hearings, help with the hiring of more lawyers to do more lawsuits and if necessary, raise at least $1 million to do a referendum that will reverse this terrible law are needed.
The millions of dollars this is costing the taxpayers is taking away from education and other programs and doing nothing to prevent or deter the root causes of crime.
If you will help me work against the implementation of this unconstitutional atrocity called Jessica’s Law, please write to me NOW as I cannot have too many funds and volunteers to campaign against it. This will worsen the prison crisis that has our state in turmoil that has already resulted in the preventable deaths of hundreds of prisoners who are now being shipped out of state.
Rev. B. Cayenne Bird, Director
United for No Injustice, Oppression or Neglect
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