Among the flurry of proposition numbers that interrupt my precious little television viewing time in preparation for the California elections in November, one number truly stands out: 83.
Proposition 83, also known as Jessica’s Law, is named after nine-year-old Florida resident Jessica Lunsford, who was kidnapped from her bedroom, assaulted and then buried alive. Jessica’s Law would toughen California laws by increasing penalties for violent and habitual sex offenders and child molesters.
Sex offenders would be prohibited from living within 2,000 feet of any school, making it harder for them to prey on kids. Registered sex offenders would be required to wear a lifetime Global Positioning System device in order to track their movements at all times.
The mandatory minimum prison term would be lengthened, and offenders would have to serve the entire term. Parole periods would be extended up to 10 years, which could curb habitual sexual violence. The two-year commitment for sexually violent predators would change to an indefinite commitment, subject to review by state officials. The current law to keep mentally ill and sexually violent predators committed to state mental institutions after their prison terms would be strengthened.
California’s laws for sexual predators are among the most lenient in the nation. Right now there are over 63,000 sexual predators in California, many who have been released from prison without going through some sort of treatment or parole. Many end up back in prison after preying on another victim, especially since the chance of a sex offender repeating his behavior is over 50 percent. This needs to stop, and Jessica’s Law is the way to do it.
Jessica’s Law should be passed not just because it would help curb potential child abuse, but because it would make sure that offenses are not repeated again. By having registered sex offenders live farther away from schools, there are naturally fewer children to target. Wearing a GPS device would help the California government keep track of the tens of thousands of sexual predators that have been released from prison of whom they have now lost track. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, although most attackers are known to their victims, most have had repeated access to them at school or elsewhere outside the home. Knowing where these offenders are could help decrease the number of incidents of child sexual assault, and make sure that children are safer overall.
Opponents of Proposition 83 argue that forcing predators to live 2,000 feet away from schools would send them out of urban areas and into rural communities with less law enforcement and without treatment and support services. This is an understandable concern, especially for those in California living in less populated areas. However, while an offender is on parole, guidelines could require them to live in the same community they are from, just not near any schools. After the offenders are off parole, the GPS device would track them wherever they are, alerting law enforcement if they are near a school, even in a rural area. This would not only ensure that we know where the offenders are, but would also help cut the cost of hiring thousands more parole officers.
Opponents also claim that Proposition 83 would be too expensive, as it would use GPS tracking devices and increase the pressure on the overburdened prison system, as well as taking away certain civil liberties. The best way to handle this would be to have one police officer per sexual offender, following them so they never could commit another crime. This, of course, is impossible, which makes GPS devices the next best thing.
The prison system may be overcrowded, but it has been and will continue to be, and proper prison reform needs to take place in order for any real change to happen there. Locking away sexual predators seems like a pretty good idea compared to locking up those who have committed petty drug crimes, but that is another argument.
And those concerned about civil liberties need to realize that once someone is charged with a crime, they have already waived certain personal rights. Keeping track of someone who could repeat a crime over and over again, particularly one as life-altering and horrific as rape, is not the same as having the government act like Big Brother.
Voting ‘yes’ on Jessica’s Law would mean improving the safety of everyone in California and making sure that those who have committed sexual crimes are punished for them.
Nadia Osman is a fourth-year history major.