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California Supreme Court overturns sex offender housing ban

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The California Supreme Court building.
Steve Rhodes/Flickr (by cc-nc-nd)
On Monday, the California Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the 'blanket' application of the sex offender housing restrictions, a key component of Jessica's Law, is unconstitutional.

The state’s highest court unanimously struck down a mandatory residency restriction prohibiting sex offenders in San Diego County from living within 2,000 feet of schools or parks.

The state’s highest court struck down a mandatory residency restriction prohibiting sex offenders in San Diego County from living within 2000 feet of schools or parks.

This ban was a key component of Proposition 83 or Jessica’s law, which was overwhelming approved by California voters in 2006. Intended to protect Californians from sex offenders on parole, the court unanimously ruled that the law's housing ban violates the "basic constitutional right to be free of unreasonable, arbitrary and oppressive official action." 

In an opinion for the court, Justice Marvin Baxter wrote, "The residency restrictions place burdens on registered sex offender parolees that are disruptive in a way that hinder their treatment, jeopardizes their health and undercuts their ability to find and maintain employment, significantly undermining any effort at rehabilitation." 

Host Alex Cohen spoke with Laurie Levenson, professor of law at Loyola Marymount, on the broader implications of this decision.

"Given the conditions of Jessica's law, 97% of the housing was off limits and in fact one-third of all the parolees in San Diego county were living on the street, were homeless,"  said Levenson. 

Currently, the ruling only applies to  San Diego County, but Levenson anticipates that the ruling will extend throughout the state.

"This is not the only place where we've run into this problem. We passed a law, but the consequences have been that there's been a tremendous increase, about a 24% increase in homelessness among the parolees, and if we think about that that's not accomplishing what we do want to accomplish, which is to keep track of where these people are," she said. 

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