Los Angeles Times

GPS tracking of sex offenders

New law’s critics oppose allowing the state to monitor certain ‘predators.’

- By Anabel Sosa

SACRAMENTO — Law enforcemen­t groups and criminal justice reformers are at odds over a bill signed Tuesday by Gov. Gavin Newsom that will allow the state to keep tabs on certain “sexually violent predators” through the Global Positionin­g System.

Lawmakers passed AB 1641 with an overwhelmi­ng majority in both the Assembly and Senate. Written by Assemblyme­mber Brian Maienschei­n (D-San Diego), the bill will require such predators to be monitored while on a conditiona­l release from rehabilita­tion programs.

The American Civil Liberties Union California Action and California Attorneys for Criminal Justice opposed the legislatio­n.

“Persons who are granted conditiona­l release under the Sexually Violent Predator Act have been determined by the court, based upon expert opinion, not to pose a danger to the public,” the ACLU wrote in a statement.

The group called the GPS tracking approach a “questionab­le practice,” arguing that convicted sexual offenders who are granted conditiona­l release have already served time in prison and receive treatment at Coalinga State Hospital.

Built in 2005, the hospital treats sexually violent predators who suffer from mental disorders that prevent them from being released into society until they undergo a therapy program.

The hospital has a goal of rehabilita­ting and releasing former inmates, but few opt for the therapy, which has raised questions about its $250-million budget.

The state undertakes annual assessment­s of these individual­s to determine whether they can be placed in a step-down program to transition back to their communitie­s.

Critics say a blanket requiremen­t for GPS monitoring is arbitrary and an invasion of privacy.

“It’s a one-size-fits-all approach to a wide range of people and situations,” wrote Stephen Munkelt, executive director of California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, adding that placing a tracking device on individual­s who have gone through a rehabilita­tion system creates psychologi­cal pressure and the sense that they are being watched.

In a statement in support of the bill, the Peace Officers Research Assn. of California said it would “clarify some ambiguitie­s in the law and ensure the public’s safety.”

Similarly, the California State Sheriffs’ Assn. supported the bill, saying it is in the “best interest” of the public.

“Sexually violent predators have proven themselves to be among some of the most dangerous criminals,” Maienschei­n said.

“When Rancho Bernardo was selected as the proposed placement location of an SVP [sexually violent predator] last year, I immediatel­y began researchin­g the conditiona­l release process . ... My bill will ensure that law enforcemen­t are provided with an additional tool to help protect our communitie­s from these criminals.”

Newsom on Tuesday signed 36 other bills and vetoed two, according to a news release from his office.

 ?? Elizabeth Marie Himchak CNG ?? RESIDENTS OF Rancho Bernardo in San Diego oppose a sex offender’s placement in their area.
Elizabeth Marie Himchak CNG RESIDENTS OF Rancho Bernardo in San Diego oppose a sex offender’s placement in their area.

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