Senator Sharon Runner Demands Transparency from Corrections Department

Senator Sharon Runner (R-Lancaster) has called upon the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to provide insight into its decision to terminate enforcement of the uniform sex offender residency restrictions under Jessica’s Law.

“I was alarmed by CDCR’s sweeping decision to stop enforcing the people’s will as expressed in Jessica’s Law,” said Runner. “The residency restrictions in Jessica’s Law provide important peace of mind for California’s families.”

Runner specifically demanded the release of an unpublished opinion from Attorney General Harris used by CDCR to justify the policy change.

In a letter to CDCR Secretary Jeffrey Beard, Runner writes: “The public, the press and the Legislature have a right to a transparent explanation of the Department’s position. For the sake of transparency, it is imperative that you release the opinion of the Attorney General without delay!”

Runner is also working on legislation that will clarify any confusion caused by the decision of the California Supreme Court regarding CDCR’s enforcement of sex offenders in San Diego County. Currently she is working on building a coalition of support for a legislative remedy that keeps the integrity of Jessica’s Law intact.

“As an author of Jessica’s Law, I continue to stand behind the package of reforms that have made California’s communities safer,” said Runner.

Runner authored voter-approved Jessica’s Law along with her husband, Board of Equalization Vice Chair George Runner, in 2006. In addition to mandatory residency restrictions for sex offenders, the law includes many important public safety reforms such as strengthened sexually violent predator laws and increased parole terms. The California Supreme Court’s decision in early March and the recent CDCR policy change only relates to the residency requirements in Jessica’s Law.

FULL TEXT OF RUNNER LETTER
Or Click Here to download a pdf version

April 6, 2015

Dr. Jeffrey Beard, Secretary
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
1515 S Street
Sacramento, CA 95811

RE: Enforcement of Sex Offender Residency Restrictions

Dear Secretary Beard,

It was with alarm that I learned of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s (CDCR) Division of Adult Parole Operations’ decision to terminate enforcement of the uniform sex offender residency restrictions in all of California’s 58 counties. The voter-approved prohibition precludes paroled sex offenders from residing within 2,000 feet of a school or park where children play. The Department has justified its abrupt change in policy by referencing a recent San Diego-specific decision of the California Supreme Court. According to CDCR’ s press release, Attorney General Harris has advised the Department that the California Supreme Court will ultimately decide the residency restriction is unconstitutional statewide.  A charitable interpretation of the release would lead one to conclude that CDCR has confused the opinion of the Attorney General with the opinion of the California Supreme Court.

The Rule of Law

The law that your Department seeks to preemptively repeal was approved by the more than 70% of California voters who supported Jessica’s Law (Proposition 83, 2006). Proposition 83 enjoyed the support of then-Attorney General Brown.

While it is a matter of record that your Department has recommended the repeal of the 2,000 feet restriction, it must be clear to you that the authority to do so cannot be found in an unpublished opinion from Attorney General Harris. It is indeed extraordinary that the Department has rebuffed requests for release of the opinion by asserting attorney-client privilege. To restate the obvious: the public, the press and the Legislature have a right to a transparent explanation of the Department’s position.

For the sake of transparency, it is imperative that you release the opinion of the Attorney General without delay!

Amending a Voter Initiative

Most Californians believe in rehabilitation and redemption but few would advocate allowing sex offenders to reside across the street from a school or park where children play. For these reasons, voters embraced Jessica’s Law and the provision that precludes sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park. It is the task of state government to implement the will of the voters to the extent possible. When it is necessary to amend laws approved by the people the procedures are clear. Unilateral action by your Department usurps the authority of the voters, the Legislature and the Supreme Court. Please rethink your position and confer with the Legislature before implementing changes to Jessica’s Law.

Sincerely,

Sharon Runner
Senator, 21st District

Source: Sen. Sharon Runner’s office

By: Laura Mowry

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