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California's Sex Offender Registry Has Major Problems

Gabriel Dorman's picture

California's sex offender registry has a big problem. While the number of people being added to California's sex offender registry grows, the number of officials assigned to monitor these sex offenders just can't keep up.

The problem with California's sex offender registry has never been more highlighted then with the case of Phillip Garrido, the man accused of kidnapping and holding Jaycee Dugard in his backyard for 18 years despite monthly law-enforcement visits to Garrido, a registered sex offender.

Since 1994, California's sex offender registry has more than doubled from 45,000 to more than 90,000 registered sex offenders.

The increased numbers of sex offenders creates a big monitoring problem as budget cuts have negatively impacted the number of officers assigned to track registered sex offenders which is prioritized based up a risk assessment.

California uses a system called Static 99, which categorizes sex offenders based on their likelihood to reoffend. In order to calculate a sex offender's risk to reoffend, the system looks at certain factors such as the nature of the crime, the offender's relationship with the victim and whether the offender has been able to form long-term intimate relationships.

Phillip Garrido was classified as high risk to reoffend under California's sex offender registery as a result of his 1977 conviction for rape and kidnapping. However, despite his high risk status, Garrido received the same number of visits as other 200 registered sex offender in or around the same area despite many of those sex offenders not having convictions for violent crimes.

California is trying to make the changes necessary to better monitor sex offenders on the registry but conflicting state and federal law passed in 2006 pose another hurdle on how to best monitor sex offenders.

Under the federal Adam Walsh Act, monitoring of sex offenders is bases sole upon the type of conviction.

However, there are concerns over such limited requirements for monitoring sex offenders. Jill Levenson, an associate professor at Lynn University in Florida who studies sex-offender registries, since it "overestimates risk for most people, and underestimates risk for people who pleaded down," or struck plea deals by admitting to lower-level crimes.

As for now, the Sex Offender Management Board is recommending that California not adopt the federal law and forgo federal funds as it would increase the number of crimes requiring registration on California's sex offender registry. It would further create an addition cost to the state without improving California's sex offender registry system.

Written by Gabriel Dorman
Los Angeles, California
Exclusively for

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