Calling public safety government’s most important job, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed bills increasing prison terms for many sex offenders and barring them from loitering near schools and parks once they are released, the Los Angeles Times reports. The measures were signed seven weeks before voters will decide on a ballot initiative offering similar provisions. One new law requires sex offenders deemed high-risk by authorities to wear electronic tracking devices while on parole. Backers said the new laws give California the nation’s toughest restrictions on sex offenders.
The legislation is expected to cost the state more than $200 million annually by expanding the prison population and requiring more parole agents to monitor ex-offenders for longer periods of time. The initiative would require electronic monitoring for life. A federal study showed a 79 percent decline in sexual assaults against children ages 12 to 17 between 1993 and 2003. The number of arrests for sex crimes against children in California also has declined during this decade, despite population growth of 6 percent.