A San Diego court hearing tomorrow could help answer a vexing question about the balance between public safety and rehabilitation, says the Christian Science Monitor: Where can sexually violent predators relocate once the state moves to release them? Residents of an area near San Diego State University are waiting to find out where Douglas Badger, deemed a high-risk sex offender, will live when he is released from a state mental hospital, possibly in the next few weeks. Hundreds of residents packed a church last month for a meeting with local officials after they found out that Badger, 63, was slated to live in a halfway house in their neighborhood. Badger’s release would be the first in San Diego County and the fourth in California of someone classified by the state as an “SVP,” a sexually violent predator. That label, prosecutors say, makes him “the worst of the worst,” a violent offender with a mental disorder.
Under the 1996 federal Megan’s Law, every state now notifies a community when a dangerous sex offender is being released, and many sex offenders are required to register with law enforcement. In Badger’s case, the public outcry prompted the halfway house owner to change his mind about letting Badger live there. Judge David Danielsen asked all parties to go back to find a new location for Badger. In the next decade more of the 560 SVPs now in California’s sex offender commitment program will be released; many, like Badger, were convicted before California’s “three strikes” law was enacted in 1994 and were not given life sentences. Recidivism among sex offenders is generally accepted to be very high; the California Department of Corrections says that of the 2,300 felons who had committed sex crimes and were released from prison in 2001, about 1,000 returned to prison within two years.