Jessica’s Law in California: Public Safety or Public Peril?

By Anonymous

This is the first in a three-part exploration into why the California Department of Hospitals has ignored the voter driven Jessica’s Law for years now and returned Violent Sexual Predators back into our communities where they rape and murder innocent citizens.

15-yr-old Alyssa Gomez was murdered by sex offender Gilton Pitri

15-yr-old Alyssa Gomez was murdered by sex offender Gilton Pitri

In November of 2006, 70% of the California electorate voted to pass Proposition 83 (Jessica’s Law).  Two aspects of Proposition 83 included broadening the definition of a Sexually Violent Predator (SVP), and strengthening the SVP civil commitment parameters. Civil commitment provides states with a legal mechanism to confine certain sex offenders in a secure treatment facility if the court determines that they continue to pose a threat to public safety after they have completed their prison sentences.

 

Jessica’s Law passed by such a wide margin because the public thought that they were getting additional protection from the release of dangerous SVP’s into their communities. Preliminary statistics underscored that the public assessment was correct. The number of referrals for full psychiatric evaluations of potential sex predators skyrocketed in the year after Jessica’s Law was passed. In 2006, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) referred 1,850 potential sexual violent predators to the Department of State Hospitals (DSH) for review. In 2007, the year after Jessica’s Law was enacted; CDCR referred 8,871 cases to DSH. This massive discrepancy in the number of referrals clearly demonstrates that the existing SVP law prior to Jessica’s Law resulted in the release of a large number of potential sexual predators into the community.

 

So, far so good, but the plot thickens. Though there was an effort at the initial phases following the passage of Jessica’s law to implement it as written by having the inmates undergo two full independent psychiatric/psychological evaluations to determine if they were dangerous sexual predators,  that quickly unraveled. Those running the DSH formulated and executed a plan to dismantle Jessica’s law and succeeded. According to the DSH website, 22,173 sex offenders referred to DSH by the prison for an evaluation were released without the full evaluation as mandated by the law from November, 2006 to July 12, 2010.

 

DSH instead opted to “paper screen” these cases, meaning a cursory review of paperwork instead of sending the mandated two psychologists or psychiatrists to the prison to conduct a face-to-face evaluation. And, though DSH has been aware that dangerous sex offenders released without the mandated evaluation have committed sex offenses, including rape and murder, the program continues to release dangerous sex offenders to prey upon the public. Despite the California Legislature’s statutory mandate, DSH continues to shirk its legal responsibility to have evaluations conducted by two qualified psychologist and/or psychiatrists. They do so despite full awareness of the horrific consequences: the murder, rape and sodomy of victims, mainly children.

 

A particularly tragic example is that of 15 year-old Alyssa Gomez. On June 18, 2008, four days after he was released on parole Gilton Pitre after being screened in a level 2 evaluation as not needing the two SVP evaluations, he raped and murdered Alyssa, then put her body near a dumpster.

 

Why is DSH so invested in releasing sexual predators? The reasons appear to be that of economics and ideology. Economics in that it is cheaper for the State to release sex offenders than incur the cost of full evaluations, court costs and the commitment of dangerous sex offenders in state hospital. Ideology because those who run the SVP program do not appear to believe in the broadening of Jessica’s Law: Nor do they believe that sexual offenders who commit sadistic sexual rapes suffer from a mental disorder; or that a prior pattern of child rape does not suffice for current sexual deviance; or that adult males engaged in sodomizing or orally copulating 12 or 13 year old boys against their will represent a mental disorder.