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Jessica's Law violators tallied

Originally published 7/21/2007

More than 200 sex offenders in the Sacramento region live too close to schools or parks, according to an analysis by state corrections officials.

The parolees -- who served time in a state prison and have been released since Nov. 8 -- are among 2,100 statewide who are in violation of Proposition 83, a bill passed overwhelmingly by voters in November that requires all convicted sex offenders to live more than 2,000 feet from schools and parks.

State corrections officials will review the cases of each parolee believed to be living within the 2,000-foot buffer, and those found violating the law -- also known as Jessica's Law -- will have 45 days to move, said Bill Sessa, a spokesman for the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

In Sacramento County, 175 paroled sex offenders are in violation of the law, Sessa said. Yolo County has 19, Yuba five, Placer three, Sutter two and El Dorado none, Sessa said.

The number of offenders violating the 2,000-foot buffer does not include sex offenders who are on probation, officials said. About 20 sex offenders are released on probation each month in Sacramento County, but it is unclear if any of them is breaking Jessica's Law, probation officials said.

Statewide there are an estimated 2,100 parolees living too close to schools or parks, Sessa said. Since Jessica's Law passed, about 4,000 sex offenders have been paroled throughout the state.

Sessa said the number of offenders found to be violating the residency restrictions is not a sign that the law is flawed.

"We knew these 2,100 were out there," he said. "It's just that they were paroled at a time when there were questions about how to administer the law."

Sessa said officials could not force offenders to move beyond the 2,000-foot zone until rules for revoking their paroles were defined earlier this week.

Corrections officials also had to wait for several lawsuits -- some challenging the constitutionality of Jessica's Law and others that questioned whether it applied to offenders paroled before the law's passage -- to be settled.

"Now that those things have happened and we have more clarity, we can go back and tell them (offenders living too close to schools and parks) there is no doubt they are in violation of the law," Sessa said.

Offenders paroled from now on who violate the space limitations can face a return to prison, Sessa said. Parolees released before this week were given the 45-day grace period "because their status was a bit in doubt," Sessa said.

The residency regulations do not affect sex offenders paroled before the law was approved in the Nov. 7 election.

Proposition 83, which passed with more than 70 percent voter approval, was met with apprehension by some law enforcement agencies who worried that keeping track of the thousands of convicted sex offenders in the state would be a logistical nightmare.

Large swaths of the state's urban counties are off-limits to sex offenders under the law, placing a strain on some authorities -- particularly those in rural areas and those with limited budgets.

"It certainly could present a serious logistical and financial problem," said Sacramento Sheriff's Sgt. Mike Jones, supervisor of the department's sex assault felony enforcement team. "If you drew a 2,000-foot radius around any school or park, the centers would overlap to where there would be almost nowhere (offenders) could live."

Sacramento probation officers monitor an average of between 75 and 80 sex offenders each, said John Green, the chief deputy for the department's Adult Field Division. Green said despite the numbers, authorities are "certainly not going to ignore" the law's features.

"We want to follow the law to protect the community," he said. "We don't want to be flippant or turn a blind eye."

The Bee's Ryan Lillis can be reached at (916) 321-1085 or rlillis@sacbee.com.

Paroled sex offenders who are living within 2,000 feet of a school or park, in violation of Jessica’s Law, in the Sacramento region:

Sacramento County: 175Yolo County: 19Yuba County: 5Placer County: 3Sutter County: 2Amador County: 1El Dorado County: 0Nevada County: 0Statewide: 2,100

Source: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

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