SACRAMENTO -- Sex offenders on parole who remove their electronic tracking bracelets will no longer be eligible for early release from county jail under legislation signed Saturday by Gov. Jerry Brown.
Early release has been common in some counties with their own severe jail crowding problems, but the legislation by state Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) will mandate that those who remove GPS devices be sentenced to 180 days and require that the sex offender serve the entire parole revocation in county jail.
“When sex offenders know that there are little or no repercussions for cutting off their GPS monitoring devices, it’s time to strengthen the deterrent,” Lieu said in a statement. “Real deterrents for sex offenders drastically reduce the likelihood they will commit another crime.”
In stories this spring, the Times documented a sharp increase in reported cases of sex offenders removing their GPS devices, a requirement created by California voters in 2006 under Proposition 83.
Only the state parole department fully enforced the requirement, and originally returned GPS violators to prison. However, under Gov. Jerry Brown’s 2011 prison reduction legislation, penalties for parole violations were greatly reduced, and the job of housing parole violators was given to county jailers.
State corrections officials originally severely underreported the instances of sex offender parolees disabling their devices, but in response to records requests from The Times, acknowledged more than 5,000 warrants for GPS tampering were issued in the first 15 months after penalties for doing so were reduced.
Alongside the increase in fugitive sex offenders, some convicted sex offenders who removed their trackers have been charged with new crimes, including rape and murder.
State police in Fresno last week rearrested one repeat offender, Fidel Tafoya, accused of misdemeanor sexual battery for allegedly removing his GPS bracelet and then inappropriately touching a student at the Fresno State campus library. He has been arrested on that campus twice before on similar charges.
Legislative analysts warned Lieu’s SB 57 could worsen jail crowding. It was opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union and supported by law enforcement groups. The California Attorneys for Criminal Justice opposed the bill, arguing it “only adds to the existing problem of overcrowding” in lockups.