Across the country, politicians have passed laws to protect children from sex offenders — but in California, the tide is turning in the wrong direction.
“Recent laws passed by liberal California politicians eliminate oversight of sex offenders and their placement in residential communities — often with vulnerable children and elderly living there,” says Carl DeMaio, chairman of Reform California, which has a campaign dedicated to fighting this relocation of sex offenders.
In 2020, Democrats in the California Legislature approved Senate Bill (SB) 145, which allows an adult who molests a child as young as 14 years old to avoid being listed on a sex offender registry.
“The reason that we have sex offender registry laws is because, as a community, we need to monitor criminals,” said DeMaio. “The evidence is overwhelming that you only find one out of a hundred sex offenders that are caught in these types of crimes and that’s why when they offend the first time we put them on a registry so we can watch them carefully,” DeMaio explained.
While California Democrats claim the bill is designed to protect the LGBT community from discrimination, DeMaio, an openly gay Republican, says the excuse is false and “disgusting.”
SB 145 is not the only cause of concern for DeMaio. Recent California court rulings have also made it harder to protect communities from sex offenders.
In the California Supreme Court’s 2015 decision in IN RE: William TAYLOR et al. on Habeas Corpus, the court ruled that San Diego County’s restrictions preventing a sex offender’s placement within 2,000 feet of a school or park were unconstitutional. The law in question was a key component of Proposition 83 (Jessica’s Law), which was passed by California voters in 2006 with over 70% of the vote.
DeMaio says that state politicians are also increasingly siding with sex offenders and passing laws to make it easier for them to not only escape listing on Sex Offender Registries, but live in residential communities and near schools and playgrounds.
But DeMaio states that communities should be worried about more than just your average sex offender and their placement. In California, the problem gets worse with “Sexually Violent Predators” — or SVPs. An SVP is the worst classification in the criminal justice system.
To be classified as an SVP, a person has to have been convicted of a violent sex crime, be diagnosed with a mental disorder, and be likely to reoffend.
That’s why Reform California is leading a campaign to block the placement of Sexually Violent Predators in residential communities — and has been successful. In October 2021, DeMaio blocked the placement of an SVP, Douglas Badger, in the San Diego community of Rancho Bernardo.
“The safety of our families and communities is a top priority — especially since these predators are highly likely to reoffend,” said DeMaio.
In fact, 70% of Sexually Violent Predators released into communities in California were returned to custody.
But DeMaio has hope for change and points to a new potential audit of the way in which SVPs are placed in communicities.
Liberty HealthCare has a long-running contract to manage the conditional release of SVPs. Members of the state Legislature have agreed to order an audit of their program due to transparency, spending, and safety concerns.
Liberty Healthcare’s program was responsible for nearly placing the known child sex predator Douglas Badger (whose placement DeMaio stopped) near schools, bus stops, and day care centers in San Diego County. DeMaio says Liberty Healthcare has been caught misrepresenting their work and has not done the due diligence state law requires.
DeMaio also points to a positive recent court ruling in People v. Superior Court of Santa Cruz County (2023), which affirmed the SVPs cannot be placed near schools, including home schools, and that the time when a school was established is irrelevant.
But DeMaio says the only way to really change policy and keep our communities safe from sex offenders is to elect better politicians who will fight to stop bad policies like SB 145 and work to protect our most vulnerable.
That’s why DeMaio and Reform California are leading a campaign to flip key target seats in 2024 by supporting candidates for state and local office who commit to reforming how sex offenders are tracked and managed in California.
“We need to raise funds for this fight - so if you want to restore oversight of sex offenders in California, please support our campaign today,” DeMaio concludes.