DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN: Flaw revealed in Jessica’s Law

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Nobody is perfect. So, because laws are made by people, then laws can be imperfect, despite their intentions.

After a recent report from the San Diego State-based Watchdog Institute, it has been revealed that some laws are too vague to enforce. One example is the 2006 voter-approved Jessica’s Law, which bans convicted sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park. The report showed that in San Diego County, 73 percent of sex offenders are in violation of Jessica’s Law. In Coronado and Solana Beach, 100 percent of sex offenders are in violation of the law, and in the city of San Diego, 86 percent are in violation.

The law, while having the right intentions, is impossible to enforce. Urban neighborhoods and beach communities designed to have a plethora of parks and schools make it impossible for those individuals to live anywhere. This puts a burden of tracking and enforcement on cash-strapped police departments that simply don’t have the resources.
When it becomes impossible for an offender to live a new life after paying their debt to society, there’s no point in releasing them at all. If they’re still a threat, then they shouldn’t be out of prison.

As a result, offenders are then forced to live under the radar of society, running the risk of recidivism or committing a new crime, if there isn’t a plausible place to live. Even during the campaign for Jessica’s Law, Mike Jimenez, president of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, was against the law. He said by pushing sex offenders into homelessness, it detracts from the purpose of the law to protect others.

For sex offenders, recidivism rates are lower than for other criminals. According to the Department of Justice, “sex offenders were less likely than non-sex offenders to be rearrested for any offense.” The Watchdog Institute cites another Department of Justice study that says only 7 percent of sex crimes against children have been committed by someone once convicted of a sex crime.

On the Megan’s Law Web site, which is a different law forcing sex offender registration, it’s stated that, “90 percent of child victims know their offender, with almost half of the offenders being a family member.” The image painted of a stranger lurking around parks isn’t the reality. Jessica’s Law perpetuates this myth and it is affecting people by the thousands.

This isn’t about giving sympathy to sex offenders, who are among the worst people in the world, but rather the injustice of a poorly thought-out law. Children should without a doubt be protected, but not at the expense of constitutionality or practicality.

For example, an ex post facto law, which retroactively increases the severity of a punishment, is against Article I, section 10 of the Constitution. Jessica’s Law does just that. People could lose homes that have been owned for decades.

Even relocation wouldn’t work, as an apartment complex or compound full of sex offenders has just as much community appeal as a chemical plant. Simply putting all sex offenders in one place is not a rational choice.

In order to fix this problem, the state must reevaluate the necessity of a law that is nearly impossible to enforce. Sex offenders should be monitored, but not in an inefficient manner.
The best way to reform Jessica’s Law is to classify offenders by risk. By evaluating offenders by their riskiness instead of lumping them all together in one pot, offenders can be monitored by necessity without expending unnecessary resources. Only then can stiff penalties be given out for violation.

If anything, Jessica’s Law must be seen as one step to protecting children, not the only way. That way, children can be protected and sex offenders won’t harm anyone ever again.

8212;John P. Gamboa is a journalism and geography senior.

8212;This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Daily Aztec. Send e-mail to opinion@thedailyaztec.com. Anonymous letters will not be printed. Include your full name, major and year in school.