Unintended consequences of Jessica’s Law. Large numbers of sex offenders in small towns

A staggering 122 registered sex offenders live here, in a small, blue-collar city in northern California that has suddenly found itself at the centre of an international media storm. More than 100 of them – 102, to be precise – live in the compact zip-code area containing the suburb that Jaycee Lee’s alleged kidnapper, Philip Craig Garrido, called home.

“If you look at maps that show where offenders are actually able to live under Jessica’s Law, there’s almost nowhere in the whole of Los Angeles and San Francisco where they can now legally settle,” Mr Risher adds. “Everywhere is within 2,000 feet of a park or school. So they all end up in places like Antioch.”

The article describes that part of Antioch as being filled with meth and crack, with foreclosures and unemployment rising fast. Small police departments just don’t have the resources to keep track of all the registered sex offenders.

There is little evidence that [Jessica’s Law] works. Many police forces say it has the opposite effect: stretching resources and doing nothing to prevent paedophiles travelling to commit crimes.

The San Jose Mercury News says some of the Antioch stats are actually from unincorporated areas and thus the report is a bit suspect. But still, the current laws mean sex offenders can’t live in big cities so they have to live somewhere…


  1. There’s another unintended consequence: lumping people (usually men) in as sex offenders under Jessica’s law who don’t really belong there. It destroys their lives.

    Here’s one example: In California, a teenager had a girlfriend of several years. Her family didn’t like him, and when he turned 18 (she was still 17) the family had him charged with statutory rape. Since she was a juvenile, it was treated as a child sex case (even though she wasn’t a child). He did his time, and has been treated as a sex offender ever since. Can’t get a job. Limited as to where he can live. Healthy relationships impossible (would you date a “known” sex offender?). In short, his life, as we know it, is over.

    Here’s another: In Utah, a man (now 20) confessed that while 12 years old and living with his sexually abusive step-family, he molested an 8-year-old boy. There’s no statute of limitation on child sex offenses, and even though he was a minor at the time, he can now be charged as an adult. Based on the judge’s discretion, he could even be labeled as a sex offender under Jessica’s law. Fortunately the judge elected not to, or his would be another life destroyed.

    I doubt that concentrating child sex offenders in limited, often already-sleazy areas (Antioch wasn’t the nicest neighborhood even before Jessica’s Law) has any beneficial effect. But I’ve also seen many lives destroyed when this law has been misapplied.

  2. The registry laws, and especially the residency / work place restrictions, have done far more harm than good. Forget about all the cases of vigilantism; forget about the fact that while these laws are proposed to protect the children, they include children, and a huge percentage of those on the list committed crimes that had nothing to do with children; forget about the fact that study after study has proven these laws not only are ineffective, but have actually made matters worse; forget about the fact that upon release from custody, registered sex offenders have one of the lowest recidivism rates, not the highest. In fact those who receive counseling and treatment while in custody have outstanding records as opposed to those convicted of other violent crimes! The fact is the registry and the residency / work place restrictions should be limited only to those who are proven child molesters and pedophiles. This Law Enforcement can handle and monitor effectively. Do you seriously believe a committed pedophile cannot walk or drive 500, 1000, 2500, 5000 feet or more? Jaycee Lee Dugard was abducted miles away from where Philip Garrido lived!

    I am sure we will see comments from some hysterical, uninformed individual(s) who will suggest that all those on the registry should be locked up for life or worse. They will say there is no rehabilitation for these people. And for a few they are right, which is why we need to focus on them! Once a person has done his or her time that should be it. That is the foundation of this great country and its legal system. If you don’t like it, move to China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, or wherever individual rights are ignored. If a person is a proven pedophile, lock them up for a very long time and provide treatment. If treatment is not working, keep them locked up. Too many families are being destroyed for political expediency. Too many children of those on the registry are being abused and ostracized at school. Too many families are being forced into isolation and restricted from the work place. If we are truly trying to protect the children with the registry, then let’s focus on the pedophiles and child molesters’. Get rid of the residency / work place restrictions and focus on the loitering laws. Let the rest of those on the registry re-assimilate into society after they have done their time and become solid, productive citizens; part of the solution not the problem. The facts, (and the Garrido case) as well as virtually all of the research, and study after study have proven what we are doing now, mostly for political expediency and to appease hysterical uninformed parents is not working and is in fact making matters worse!

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