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Seeking leeway in Jessica’s Law

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Registered sex offenders would be living closer to schools and day care centers under a proposal by San Francisco officials to ask for exemptions for where they can live.

In 2006, state voters passed Jessica’s Law, which prohibits registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school, park or child care facility for life.

Although the law is credited with keeping convicted sex offenders away from children, it has made it difficult for them to find housing. That is especially true in San Francisco, one of the smallest and densest counties in the state.

As a result, many sex offenders are living on the streets, some of whom are monitored only by GPS, according to city officials.

There are 1,150 registered sex offenders in San Francisco on parole or probation. Approximately 10 percent are homeless, according to the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice. And The City has 62 homeless sex offenders who are monitored by GPS, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

In an effort to move sex offenders off the streets and into housing where they can be monitored more closely, San Francisco officials are lobbying the state to loosen its restrictions and, at the very least, allow homeless sex offenders with advanced illnesses to be housed, even within 2,000 feet of where children congregate.

"They should be able to make exceptions," Sheriff Michael Hennessey said. "There are people who are treatable and their crime is so distant it might be appropriate for an exception."

The San Francisco Reentry Council — which supports adults exiting jail and prison — has been debating the issue and is expected to draft recommendations for the state after its Dec. 7 meeting. And political support for amending the law might be growing. This month, a state task force recommended a change in the blanket residency policy for sex offenders. And a Los Angeles judge blocked enforcement of portions of the law.

Meanwhile, members of the local Reentry Council — which includes the public defender, the district attorney and staff from the Mayor’s Office — say they want the state to start allowing San Francisco to house sex offenders with advanced illnesses, including HIV, diabetes and substance abuse problems.

Monitoring them in a supportive-housing situation, even if it is close to a school, is better than having them roam the streets, according to officials.

State law gives the parole department the discretion to make some exceptions, but only for cases that "rise to level of endangering someone’s life," said Matthew Goughnour, district administrator for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Such applications are seldom granted, said Jessica Flintoft, policy director for the Reentry Council and Office of the Public Defender. "As a result, there are homeless individuals with serious and grave health issues living on streets who are denied treatment by parole," she said.

esherbert@sfexaminer.com

 

Living situation

 

San Francisco has more than a thousand registered sex offenders on parole or probation, many of whom are homeless and lack proper supervision.

1,150: Registered sex offenders in The City on parole or probation

160: Approximate number of sex offenders under supervision of Adult Probation Department

100: Sex offenders under department supervision who are required to register

10: Percentage of sex offenders on probation who are homeless

Source: Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice