California Supreme Court Building
The California Supreme Court’s headquarters in San Francisco at the Earl Warren Building and Courthouse. Photo credit: Wiki Commons

The California Supreme Court, ruling Monday in a San Diego case, found that mandatory residency restrictions dictated by a voter-approved initiative aimed at helping Californians better protect themselves from sex offenders on parole are unconstitutional.

The state’s highest court affirmed an appeals court decision that residency restrictions contained in Jessica’s Law are unconstitutional as applied across the board to registered sex offenders on active parole in San Diego County.

Blanket enforcement of the residency restrictions against those parolees has severely restricted their ability to find housing and greatly increased the incidence of homelessness among them, according to the state’s high court.

It has also hindered their access to medical treatment, drug and alcohol dependency services, psychological counseling and other rehabilitative services available to all parolees, while further hampering the efforts of law enforcement to monitor and supervise them in the interests of public safety, the ruling says.

The state Supreme Court, however, agreed with the lower court that authorities retain the authority to impose special parole conditions on sex offender parolees, including residency restrictions, as long as they are based on the special circumstances of each individual parolee.

Jessica’s Law — also known as the Sexual Predator Punishment and Control Act — was approved by voters in 2006.

The wide-ranging initiative was intended to “help Californians better protect themselves, their children, and their communities from problems posed by sex offenders by strengthening and improving the laws that punish and control sexual offenders.”

Among its proponents’ objectives, Jessica’s Law sought to “prevent sex offenders from living near where our children play” by creating “predator-free zones around schools and parks” through the enactment of mandatory residency restrictions by amending a pre-existing statute dealing with where and with whom certain paroled sex offenders may live.

— City News Service