Lawmakers in both houses of the California State Legislature passed Assembly Bill (AB) 1641 with an overwhelming majority, which allowed it to reach Newsom's desk at the soonest.
Authored by Assemblyman Brian Maienschin, AB 1641 defined an SVP as "an individual convicted of a sexual offense that the court deems likely to re-offend, making them a danger to the health and safety of others." The bill formed part of his 2022 legislative package that focuses on public safety and porch piracy in the Golden State,
Under the measure, SVPs will be committed to a state hospital until the court determines that they qualify for either a conditional release program (CONREP) or unconditional release. Those that fall under CONREP are placed in the community while receiving ongoing treatment. SVPs under CONREP will also be monitored using GPS throughout the duration of the program.
While there are very few limitations on where the offenders can be placed, the bill strengthens the safety of communities by preventing an SVP from being housed within a quarter of a mile of a school, daycare, park or community center where youth activities are regularly held. It also ensures that law enforcement is an active participant in the selection process of housing the SVP. Moreover, the measure also provides for an extended conditional release duration for SVPs.
However, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and California Action and California Attorneys for Criminal Justice (CACJ) have opposed AB 1641. A blanket requirement for GPS monitoring is arbitrary and can be considered an invasion of privacy, they argued.
ACLU described the GPS tracking of SVPs as a "questionable practice," arguing that convicted offenders who have been granted conditional release no longer pose a danger to the public. It added that SVPs have already served time in prison and received treatment at the Coalinga State Hospital in Central California. The hospital was built in 2005 for the treatment of SVPs with mental disorders.
CACJ Executive Director Stephen Munkelt said placing a tracking device on individuals who have gone through a rehabilitation system creates psychological pressure that they are being watched. "It's a one-size-fits-all approach to a wide range of people and situations," he added. (Related: RFID tracking armbands forced on all residents near California music festival.)
In contrast, the California State Sheriffs' Association expressed support toward the bill, saying that doing so is in the "best interest" of the public. The Peace Officers Research Association of California also supported the bill, but noted that it would "clarify some ambiguities in the law."
Maienschin defended his bill by pointing out that sexually violent predators have proven themselves to be among the most dangerous criminals. "My bill will ensure that law enforcement is provided with an additional tool to help protect our communities from these criminals," he said.
"More safeguards need to be in place to prevent these individuals, who are still under the jurisdiction of the court and receiving treatment, from being housed in areas that can pose a danger to public safety."
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Watch this video talking about why some Democrats opposed a bill to clamp down on child sex offenders.
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