Crime & Justice

California bill would relax supervision of sex offenders

Advocates for changes in California's sex offender registration law say it unfairly lumps dangerous criminals with people who pose no threat to society. More than 100,000 people are listed in the state's registry, with those in parts of South LA marked above by dots, via the National Sex Offender Registry.
Advocates for changes in California's sex offender registration law say it unfairly lumps dangerous criminals with people who pose no threat to society. More than 100,000 people are listed in the state's registry, with those in parts of South LA marked above by dots, via the National Sex Offender Registry.
Screenshot via National Sex Offender Registry

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State lawmakers, with support from many in law enforcement, are considering an historic rollback of California's lifetime registration requirement for sex offenders.

The state's sex offender registry is the largest in the country, with more than 100,000 names, according to Janice Bellucci, executive director of the Alliance for Constitutional Sex Offender Laws. She estimates that 90 percent of the people on the registry are lower level offenders who pose no threat to society.

"Probably the largest area of growth on our sex offender registry are teenagers who are looking at photos of other teenagers," Bellucci told KPCC. 

She pointed to the case of a 16-year-old girl who texted nude photos of herself to boys in her high school.

"She was convicted of creating and distributing child pornography," said Bellucci.

The Alliance backs SB 421, which would create different requirements for how long sex offenders must register, based on the severity of their crime. 

California is one of just four states that continue to require lifetime registration for all sex offenders.

The legislation would create a three-tier system for sex offenders.

Under tier one, the least serious offenses, people convicted of a range of crimes including indecent exposure and possession of child pornography with intent to distribute would be eligible for removal from the registry after ten years.

Under tier two, people convicted of crimes such as rape or lewd conduct with a child under 14 would be eligible for removal after 20 years.

Anyone convicted of repeat child molestation, repeat rapes and others of the most serious offenses would still be required to register with police for the rest of their lives.

Another change would allow people who have been on the list for more than 30 years to be removed. California created the registry 70 years ago, and in the early days required gay men to register.

The California Police Chiefs Association, the Association of Deputy District Attorneys, the Los Angeles County Professional Peace Officers Association and the Los Angeles Police Protective League are among the bill's backers.  Law enforcement leaders say the current law governing the registry makes it difficult for them to focus monitoring efforts on the most serious offenders.

Some victim’s rights groups oppose the measure.

"The sad part is that we keep talking about the human face of offenders," Mika Moulton told KPCC’s Airtalk. Moulton operates Christopher’s Clubhouse, a non-profit organization that teaches families and kids about safety in the Coachella Valley.

"What about the face of victims," asks Moulton, whose 10-year-old son was kidnapped and murdered in 1995. She supports changes to the registry but believes people should be required to stay on it longer than proposed.

Governor Brown has yet to say whether he would sign the bill. 

The Alliance  for Constitutional Sex Offender Laws held its national conference in Los Angeles over the weekend, and in a sign of the stigma surrounding the issue, the gathering, attended by sex offenders and their supporters, was closed to the media and other outsiders.