Over 105,000 people are registered as sex offenders in the state of California, and as it stands they must remain on the sex offender registry their entire lives. This registry allows families, schools, and employers to be vigilant against potential sex crimes, since every sex offender’s name, address, and other pertinent info is readily available for all citizens.
But the list also hinders offenders’ ability to re-enter society, even once rehabilitation is evident and imminent. Being registered as a sex offender can prevent most people from finding employment and housing, and according to Senator Scott Weiner of California those on a lifetime registry often face mental illness and drug addiction as a result.
Senator Weiner continued by pointing out that the time devoted to completing paperwork detracts from time that could be spent finding and prosecuting current and new offenders. In addition, Jackie Lacey, Los Angeles County District Attorney, believes that “The state’s sex offender registry has lost significant value over time because it contains too many low-risk offenders with decades-old offenses.” Lacey says a three-tiered system would “provide greater focus on higher-level offenders” and that it would “improve public safety”.
This three-tiered system, which was introduced to the state Senate this year, includes different tiers for different levels of offense. The first tier is reserved for those with minor offenses – like urinating in public. The second tier is categorized by convicted statutory rapists and the like. Those guilty of crimes within the first two tiers will be eligible for removal from the registry for sex offenders in 10 and 20 years, respectively. In order to be removed from the list, candidates must submit paperwork and their cases will be reviewed individually for removal. The third tier, however, will remain on the list for a lifetime. These sex offenders are sexually violent predators.
This bill, named SB-421, has received vast amounts of opposition from more conservative representatives. Senator Jeff Stone believes it to be crucial that local residents be aware of sex offenders, regardless how long ago their crime(s) took place, nearby. Senators Josh Newman and Steve Glazer were the only two democrats to reject the bill.
But there is something everyone can agree on: the new bill includes a mandate that the registry differentiate between the three tiers so that families, schools, churches, and other establishments can know who the most threatening offenders are. SB-421 received a vote of 24 to 10, effectively passing the new rule into the next stage of legislature. The Assembly will consider the bill, sending it to the Public Safety and Appropriations Committees and then onto a floor vote by September 15, 2017.