Jessica's Law | Not Working as Planned

Fresno, CA, USA The reasons are complicated by time, money, the legal system and the increase in the numbers of sex offenders in and out of custody. Chief Dyer wants to see more sexually violent predators given civil commitments to protect the rest of us: "We have a state hospital right here in Fresno County that is not full to capacity; however, there are individuals who should in fact be in that facility today."

The Valley's Coalinga State Hospital was built specifically for sex offenders, It has a capacity of 15-hundred. It currently houses 708 sexually violent predators who were sent there after a lengthy legal process that begins with a Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation referral for a mental health evaluation. That sets the legal ball rolling which rolls very slowly. Civil commitments of this type only began in 1996.

Ten years later Jessica's law increased the numbers of sex offenders who qualify. Dr. Stephen Mayberg, Director of California's Department of Mental Health tells us that: "Jessica's law changed not only the criteria that made people eligible to be evaluated, it also went from 2 offenses to 1 offense."

A log jam in the both the Department of Mental Health and then in the Courts followed. A judge must determine if a sex offender meets the criteria to be committed to the state hospital for an indeterminate time under Jessica's law.

Take a look at the numbers. Before Jessica's law a cumulative total of 6,883 referrals were filed. And the courts ordered 552 sex offenders leaving prison be placed in civil commitments.

Post Jessica's law total referrals rose to 21,552. The cumulative Court ordered commitments stand at just 600.

Dr. Mayberg admits his department did struggle with the onslaught of referrals but that today they are up to date. He adds there are a lot of cases still in the court process: "There are over 4-hundred people in the court system with trials pending or probable cause pending." He added that the State Hospital will be ready to receive the commitments the courts choose to send them.

Chief Dyer says the problems are about the process and the resources: "The system needs to be refined and tweaked and in some cases overhauled." He has come to believe that not every sex offender needs to be committed to Coalinga State Hospital but he does all High Risk Sex Offenders and others monitored by GPS - whether on parole or not: "Chief Dyer: According to the state they are supposed to be on GPS but there's no funding for local law enforcement for that to occur. The problem is we can't keep an eye on them 24 hours a day and that's the purpose of GPS."

Where are all those sex offenders? A visit to the Megan's law website will show you. In Fresno county alone there are 17-hundred 32 registered sex offenders listed there. Statewide the total is 63-thousand and growing.

Sex Offender Commitment Program (SOCP)

Enacting Jessica's Law - Governor Schwarzenegger's Proposal

Meagan's Law – California Website

California Department of Mental Health

Coalinga State Hospital Website


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