Courts & Crime

California ends shredding of sex offenders' parole files

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger ordered state corrections officials Tuesday to stop destroying sex offenders' parole files and to make as much of their contents public as possible.

The move follows the arrest of a paroled sex offender accused of killing a 17-year-old girl near San Diego last month and under investigation in the death of a 14-year-old who disappeared in the same area more than a year ago.

It also follows The Bee's successful lawsuit last month to force corrections officials to turn over the parole records of kidnap and rape suspect Phillip Garrido.

"The current practice of not keeping information on sex offenders in California is unacceptable," the governor said in a statement issued Tuesday. "It is in the best interest of public safety to retain all information on these individuals and to make as much information as possible available and transparent.

"I have directed my Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to end this practice and immediately begin keeping all sex offender parolee files."

Until Tuesday, the department routinely shredded the files of parolees one year after they had been discharged from parole.

The policy dates back to 2008. Before that, the department destroyed parolee files four to six months after discharge, depending on the severity of an offender's background. The files typically contain parole agents' notes regarding supervision, as well as records of any violations.

The shredding policy was common knowledge within the corrections department, but came as a shock to crime victims and their advocates.

"Wait a minute. What?" asked Marc Klaas, father of 12-year-old Polly Klaas, who was killed by parolee Richard Allen Davis in Petaluma in 1993. "That's just wrong at every level."

Harriet Salarno, president of Crime Victims United of California, said the news left her "in a state of shock." Like others interviewed Tuesday, she argued that every record regarding sex offenders should be retained, given the probability that they will reoffend.

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