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Number of fugitive sex offenders spikes since California 'realignment'

April 11, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
The number of fugitive sex offenders is increasing in the state of California.

California sex offenders who've served their time are released on parole, and only those considered high-risk are given a GPS tracker. Now thousands are taking them off.

The jump in the number of high-risk sex offenders who are cutting off their GPS ankle-bracelet trackers is bigger than previously thought, almost double since an October 2011 policy change called "realignment" that sends parolees to county jail instead of state prison for certain relatively minor violations.

In the 15 months prior to the policy change, 3,117 warrants were issued for sex-offender fugitives. In the following 15 months, nearly 5,000 warrants were issued, a 58-percent increase. Previously, 30 percent had cut off their monitors.

The state only counted the number of parolees, no matter how many times they did it.

"If someone absconds, we go after them and 92 percent of the time, we catch them and we do so within 12 days, on average," said Jeffrey Callison, Calif. Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokesman.

But since realignment, being recaptured means only a few days at the local lockup, and if that facility is overcrowded, it could mean no jail time at all.

Critics says that's why more and more parolees are ditching their GPS: the consequences are weak.

"Clearly, they're not cutting them off so they can go drink a cup of coffee unmonitored," said state Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance). "They're cutting them off because they want opportunities to go commit new crimes."

Take the recent Stockton case of Jerome DeAvila, a high-risk paroled sex offender who was in and out of jail for months, charged with drugs and repeatedly disabling his GPS tracker. He wasn't a fugitive for the GPS issue, but he was supposed to be in jail for a different parole violation. Due to overcrowding, he was released early.

"He received a 30-day sentence and he was released the next day," said San Joaquin County Deputy D.A. Sherri Adams on Feb. 28.

A few days later, police arrested DeAvila for killing and raping his 76-year-old grandmother.

Senator Lieu has a proposal that puts parolees who cut off their electronic monitors back in state prison.

The state Senate Public Safety Committee is set to hear Lieu's bill in a couple of weeks. But remember: Lawmakers and even the governor have been reluctant to send more people to prison because of a court order to reduce the prison population.

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