Sacramento–California Gov. Jerry Brown today signed a bill to reform California’s sex offender registry, creating a tiered system that will make the registry a more effective tool for law enforcement and bring California’s system in line with the rest of the United States. SB 384 was authored by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and co-authored by Senators Joel Anderson (R- Alpine), Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), and Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley). The bill was sponsored by Equality California, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault, and the California Sex Offender Management Board and was endorsed by the California Police Chiefs Association and various county sheriffs.
“California’s sex offender registry is broken, which undermines public safety,” said Sen. Wiener. “SB 384 refocuses the sex offender registry on high-risk offenders and treats low-level offenders more fairly. I’m grateful for Governor Brown’s support. I want to thank the broad coalition behind this bill, including law enforcement, rape crisis centers, and social justice advocates. With this reform, our law enforcement agencies will be able to better protect people from violent sex offenders rather than wasting resources tracking low-level offenders who pose little or no risk of repeat offense. Our sex offender registry is a tool used to prevent and investigate crimes, and these changes will make it a better and more effective tool for keeping our communities safe.”
Law enforcement officials wrote the sex offender reform legislation, with support from LGBTQ advocates, rape crisis advocates and criminal justice reform groups, to make the registry a more effective tool for monitoring high-risk sex offenders and solving sex crimes. California’s sex offender registry is so huge – more than 100,000 people or one in 400 Californians are on it – that the registry is basically useless to law enforcement. It contains many low level offenders and offenders who were convicted decades ago and now present little or no risk, including LGBTQ people who found themselves on the registry for same-sex behavior that is no longer criminalized.
California is one of only four states in which all sex offenders, ranging from sexually violent predators to people caught having sex in the park, are treated the same with lifetime registration. SB 384 creates a tiered registry, with high-risk offenders on the registry for life and others able to petition to be removed after either 10 or 20 years without reoffending, depending on the offense.
“California law and police practices that targeted LGBTQ people with entrapment and discrimination have changed for the better,” said Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California. “But thousands of LGBTQ people still find themselves on California’s sex offender registry for behavior that harmed no one, was motivated by discriminatory police enforcement practices and that would not be prosecuted today. Gov. Brown’s signature will restore livelihoods and help restore the registry as a tool for investigating those who pose a real danger to society.”
Currently, California is one of only four states, together with Alabama, Florida, and South Carolina, that maintain a lifetime registration requirement for all convicted sex offenders. By treating all sex offenders alike, regardless of offense, California has bloated its own system, which inhibits law enforcement’s capability to effective protect the community. Law enforcement responsible for policing sex offenders estimates that 60 percent of officers’ time is spent on monthly or annual paperwork for low risk offenders, which is time spent at the expense of being active in the community monitoring high-risk offenders. SB 384 would remove these people from the registry.
Equality California is the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ civil rights organization. We bring the voices of LGBTQ people and allies to institutions of power in California and across the United States, striving to create a world that is healthy, just, and fully equal for all LGBTQ people. We advance civil rights and social justice by inspiring, advocating and mobilizing through an inclusive movement that works tirelessly on behalf of those we serve. www.eqca.org