Politics & Government

California lawmaker's deal kept paroled sex offenders out of district

A California lawmaker arranged an improper deal with state corrections officials to stop an influx of parolees into his district 10 months before voters approved "Jessica's Law," the 2006 ballot measure he wrote to restrict where paroled sex offenders could live.

In what state Sen. George Runner characterized as a "side agreement" with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the prison and parole agency said it would limit assignments of released offenders into the Antelope Valley to those who had "historical ties" to the area.

The agreement created an added layer of anti-parolee protection for the fast-growing desert valley communities on the northern fringe of Los Angeles County.

State law mandates only that parolees be returned to the county of their last legal residence. In vast Los Angeles County, for instance, an inmate from South Central Los Angeles could be paroled to Lancaster.

CDCR officials, saying that the deal violated the law, terminated the agreement this spring.

"When we took a look at it, we said we can't treat offenders in this county any different than offenders in any other county," said Terri McDonald, the CDCR's chief deputy secretary for adult operations.

"Jessica's Law," which bars sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of schools or parks, has turned the vast majority of the state's big-city urban landscapes into no-go zones for the measure's targeted population. One result of the initiative has been a huge increase in the number of sex offender parolees who say they are now homeless, spurring a key state oversight agency to call for a "rethinking" of the measure's housing restrictions.

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