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FRESNO -- By now it should be apparent that California voters made a serious mistake when they passed Proposition 83, the 2006 ballot initiative popularly known as Jessica's Law.
The law requires lifetime monitoring of sex offenders -- not only those charged with child sexual abuse and rapists whose victims were adults, but also those convicted of consensual sex with a teenager and even misdemeanor indecent exposure. It bars offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park.
By the end of 2007, it was obvious that the law was a failure. Almost no local police agencies in California were enforcing it, partly because it was unenforceable and partly because even trying to enforce it proved prohibitively expensive.
Now the Los Angeles Times has added still more evidence of the law's failure. In addition to its monitoring requirements, Proposition 83 also established a system of mandatory psychological evaluations for sex offenders. Like most other things about this law, that sounds like a good idea in theory.
In practice, as the Times reported, it has led to the state contracting with 79 psychologists and psychiatrists to do the evaluations. Last year, 14 of them billed the state more than a half-million dollars apiece for those services. One billed the state for more than $1.5 million in 2007.
Such payments to contractors might be worthwhile if the evaluations were producing clear benefits. But it isn't.
The evaluations were supposed to be used to determine if sex offenders should be committed to a mental hospital after serving their sentences. But the Times found that the number of commitments was essentially the same for the 18-month periods before and after voters approved the law.
The mounting evidence that this law is a failure is likely to produce new efforts to amend it. Such efforts are a waste. This law is flawed beyond repair. It's time to acknowledge the failure of good intentions and repeal Jessica's Law.
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