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CA State Auditor: 352 Licensed Residential Living Facilities Errantly Housed Registered Sex Offenders

CA State Auditor: 352 Licensed Residential Living Facilities Errantly Housed Registered Sex Offenders

by John E. Dannenberg

The California State Auditor cross-checked the State’s database of its 59,000 registered sex offenders and that of its Department of Social Services (DSS) state-funded alcohol and drug rehabilitation residential living facilities and found that in 352 such facilities, registered sex offenders were often housed together - in violation of state law. The Auditor identified 49 instances where the registered addresses were the same as those for DSS facilities housing children in day care facilities. The Auditor found the utter lack of coordination between the sex offender registry and these state care facilities both troubling and illegal. However, the Auditor found unclear the statutory language that defined when two or more sex offenders might be permitted to live at the same address and recommended that the Legislature cure this concern.

California’s sexual offender registration statute requires that those convicted of rape, kidnapping with intent to commit rape, sexual battery and lewd and lascivious conduct with a minor register for life with local law enforcement agencies within five days of moving into their jurisdiction. This information is forwarded to the state Department of Justice to update its database. In addition, those determined to be sexually violent predators (SVP) must be tracked by a leg- mounted Global Positioning System bracelet.
SVPs are further restricted from living with each other (unless related or married) or within 2000 feet of schools or parks where children congregate. They may, however, live together in approved “residential facilities” serving six or fewer individuals. Violations of any registration laws may result in either county jail time or up to three years in prison.

To keep the public informed, approximately seventy-five percent of all registered sex offenders are listed on a Justice Department web site, showing the full address for more serious offenders but just the ZIP code for others. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) is responsible for supervising these 59,000 offenders through its parole division. Although 8,000 are agent-supervised parolees, the balance are not actively monitored as to where they reside. The weak link in the system is that the Justice department is not responsible for monitoring the remaining sex offenders for compliance; rather it is the sex offenders’ responsibility to comply or else suffer new incarceration - possibly at the peril of a life-sentence “third strike.

The Auditor reviewed the state Mental Health Department’s (DMH) role, which is limited to SVPs. Those few SVPs who shake off the curse of a DMH civil commitment, currently numbering six who completed DMH’s “program” and 61 others who gained court relief, are closely monitored by DMH. Others, who are developmentally disabled, are monitored by the Department of Developmental Services (DDS). As of November 2007, DDS had 395 clients who were also registered sex offenders.

Facilities that house sex offenders must be state licensed. But even the 352 facilities currently registered owe no duty to the state to report the sex offenders living with them.
This absence of monitoring, when added to the lax or nonexistent monitoring by the Department of Justice, CDCR and DSS, was the focus of the Auditor’s complaint. The Auditor further noted that the internal data bases of CDCR, DDS and DSS, which very often failed to even carry the Social Security Numbers of the offenders they were allegedly following, were themselves inherently unreliable. Adding to findings of the absence of specific policies for placing sex offenders into the communities were the failure of CDCR to notify local law enforcement about paroling sex offenders and the failure to gain timely registration by parolees.

The Auditor recommended that strict logs be constructed based upon Social Security numbers and national CII numbers to provide the rudimentary foundation for proper monitoring of California’s registered sex offenders. CDCR’s then Secretary James Tilton responded that he did not agree with the Auditor’s conclusions. See: Sex Offender Placement, California State Auditor Report 2007-115 (April 2008). The report is available on PLN’s website.

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