A California panel is urging the governor and legislators to change “Jessica’s Law,” saying restrictions on where sex offenders can live are counterproductive and calling the nearly $25 million a year spent to house them a poor use of taxpayers’ money, reports the Los Angeles Times. The residency restrictions, passed by voters more than two years ago in Proposition 83, have never been shown to prevent crimes and may reduce public safety, the panel says. Since 70 percent of voters approved the initiative, “the availability of suitable housing has plummeted,” the state’s Sex Offender Management Board said.
The state previously had modest residency limits that applied only to certain sex offenders. Jessica’s Law expanded the restrictions to all sex offenders and greatly reduced the locations where they could reside. State lawmakers can alter the initiative with a two-thirds vote. Robert Coombs, a spokesman for the board’s chairwoman, said members found it infeasible to call for abolishing the residency restrictions, given the sweeping voter approval of Proposition 83. “I can’t imagine a policymaker who would put their name on something that says we want to make it easier for sex offenders to find housing,” Coombs said. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a strong supporter of Proposition 83, has said he is open to revisions but has not suggested any. Jeanne Woodford, former corrections secretary under Schwarzenegger, said the residency restrictions should be abolished.