Legal loophole lets sex offenders stay off radar

Every single sex offender in San Francisco paroled since Proposition 83 came into effect has dodged registration by squirming through a legal loophole, investigators told The City’s Police Commission this week.

According to investigators, at least 38 sex offenders required under the proposition, — also known as Jessica’s Law — to live 2,000 feet away from schools and parks have claimed within the last year that they are without a permanent address. As more sexual predators are released from the state’s prisons every day, that number is only going to increase, they said.

The alarming trend has tied the hands of the San Francisco Police Department’s sex offender unit and caused the Board of Supervisors to take up the issue. Now, the San Francisco Police Commission is working on a resolution that would call on state lawmakers to limit a parolee’s ability to claim “transient” status.

The controversy over Jessica’s Law, a state proposition approved in November that would essentially prohibit any sex offender from living within the limits of The City, is currently under review by courts as high as the California Supreme Court.

Whether the law holds up or not, sexual predators can dodge their residency requirements by claiming homelessness under a California Department of Corrections policy and allows the absence of their address, and their entire profile, on the state’s sex offender Web site.

Police Commission member Joe Veronese drafted the resolution to sway state lawmakers to change the law. He saidhe is afraid new parolees will assume the status, but also that 1,300 or so sex offenders already living in San Francisco will follow suit.

“What we are saying here today with this resolution is that we want to know where you’re living,” he said. “We’ll let the courts deal with whether Jessica’s Law is constitutional.”

On top of that, state parole officials are required by law to send parolees back to the county where they resided before they went to prison and inform them of the option to claim transient status.

California Department of Corrections spokesman Bill Sessa said there’s no other way to go about it. The law is there because many parolees become transients when released from prison, moving from couch to couch or sleeping in shelters.

“We’re simply spelling out for the parolee what their options are, and we’re telling them what the consequences of their decision are,” he said, adding that transient parolees are required to check in with their officers every day.

Sex offender laws

Proposition 83

» Passed in November 2006

» Dubbed Jessica’s Law after a 9-year-old Florida girl who was raped and killed

» Requires paroled sex offenders to wear electronic monitoring equipment

» Prohibits all sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park

» Does not affect sex offenders released from jail before November

Megan’s Law

» Signed by President Clinton in 1996

» Named after a 7-year-old killed by a man previously convicted of sex crimes

» Requires state agencies to inform the public where sex offenders are living

bbegin@examiner.com

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