LA sex offenders need rehabilitation
What is more innocent and idyllic than a public park? The idea of one, however, has taken a dark turn. Instead of existing for the sake of fun and perhaps a bit of fresh air, small ‚Äúpocket‚ÄĚ parks have opened up across the country in order to drive out sex offenders, according to the Denver Post.
Jessica‚Äôs Law states that sex offenders cannot live within 2,000 feet of a school or public park, according to the Post. And thanks to the rising number of sex offenders living in the Harbor Gateway here in Los Angeles ‚ÄĒ where parents say that they routinely see paroled convicts wearing GPS ankle bracelets ‚ÄĒ neighborhoods have been opening up small parks wherever they can.
Officials view the parks as tools to change the resident makeup of surrounding areas and call the strategy ‚Äúa novel way to move out offenders while providing more recreation space,‚ÄĚ according to the L.A. Times.
The creation of pocket parks is only a topical fix, however, and it fails to solve the problem of sex offenses. Instead of using pocket parks to further marginalize registered sex offenders, California should focus on rehabilitation programs.
Though various restrictions make the¬† number of sex offenders in Los Angeles lower than the state average, certain areas have much higher concentrations of offenders. For example, the area around Torrance only has 767 residents per registered sex offender, while the city of Los Angeles has 1,174 residents per every sex offender. These densely populated areas, dubbed ‚Äúpervert rows‚ÄĚ by local residents, result from California‚Äôs Jessica‚Äôs Law. These strict residency restrictions push many sex offenders either to become transient or to settle in highly concentrated areas. According to USA Today, California has over 2,000 sex offenders without permanent addresses. Not only does this make them harder to track, but they might also be more likely to commit another crime, according to Jill Levenson, a sex-crimes policy analyst.
Yet, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation plans to strengthen laws that punish sex offenders rather than focusing on rehabilitation and treatment programs. Though California prisons offer educational and vocational programs, this is not enough to prevent sex crimes. The CDCR notes on its website that ‚Äúof the almost 92,000 sex offenders statewide, [it] is only responsible for a little more than 11 [percent] (10,781).‚ÄĚ
It hopes to change this statistic, however, by enforcing Jessica‚Äôs Law and Megan‚Äôs Law, which dictates that offenders must register with the state department. Other forms of monitoring include CDCR-enforced GPS tracking more than 7,000 sex offenders. Yet, as USA Today writes, ‚ÄúThe people you need to be worried about most are the ones who aren‚Äôt registering at all.‚ÄĚ
Instead of expending effort to displace registered sex offenders, the state needs to address the problem of transient and repeat offenders. Though California is willing to put $6 million toward the creation of small pocket parks, it does not fund sex offender treatment programs in its prisons. Even though data from the CDCR shows that only about 2 percent of convicted sex offenders are sent back to prison on a new sex-abuse offense, considering the 92,000 offenders in California, this number is appreciable. In fact, the California Sex Offender Registry lists 16,671 residents as ‚Äúin violation,‚ÄĚ a statistic that needs to be addressed through reform and rehabilitation programs. Money should be channeled toward preventing repeat offenses rather than creating pocket parks to drive sex offenders away.
Despite the stigma attached to sex offenders, progress is being made on their behalf. Organizations, such as the California Reform Sex Offenders Laws Organization advocate for the ‚Äúconstitutional rights for all citizens.‚ÄĚ
They fight an uphill battle, however. According to RSOL President Janice Bellucci, hysteria clouds public perception and obscures the facts. RSOL promotes treatment programs as a solution to decreasing sex crimes. Findings by the Canadian Psychological Association support their efforts: treated sex offenders are 10 percent less likely to repeat their crimes than those who do not receive treatment.
Neither stricter laws nor pocket parks will solve the underlying problem of sex offenses. Like Band-Aids, these measures only represent topical fixes. Instead, the state needs to address the root of the problem with in-prison rehabilitation and treatment programs.
Veronica An is an undeclared freshman.