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Gov. orders to retain sex offender records

March 10, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
With anger growing over the recent San Diego teen murders, the governor ordered correction officials to stop destroying sex offender parole records.The move to start keeping the parole files of sex offenders instead of destroying them comes as the result of a case involving registered sex offender, John Gardner.

Gardner, who was no longer under parole supervision, is accused of killing 17-year-old Chelsea King.

One lawmaker requested to see Gardner's parole file and got only a one-page summary because the state destroys those records one year after a criminal's parole ends.

"Oh, I was outraged! How an entity that's charged with the public safety of California can destroy the records of a sexually violent predator they've been warned about will reoffend, how they can destroy the record of any criminal, is beyond me," said San Diego Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher.

The California Corrections and Rehabilitation Department defended the old policy, saying that it keeps critical parole documents permanently but shreds or burns the rest.

In any given month, 10,000 parolees, including sex offenders, cycle out of the system. That's a lot of paperwork.

"Because there's so many offenders, it's cost prohibitive to retain every single offender that's ever come through CDCR's custody," said Terry Thornton of the California Corrections Department.

Crime victims groups were surprised, considering that most ex-cons go back to their old ways.

"Anybody with common sense, any common sense, would know, you better keep the record because you don't know if this person is rehabilitated or not," said Harriet Salamo of Crime Victims United.

When asked why the state didn't think it might need parole supervision files in the future, Thorton said that she didn't want to get into a speculating game.

"You're having to have a crystal ball to figure out, 'Oh, who's coming back to prison? Maybe we should keep this file,'" Thorton said.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has now ordered the agency to stop destroying the parole records of sex offenders only and keep them indefinitely.

In a statement he said, "It is in the best interest of public safety to retain all information on these individuals and to make as much information as possible available and transparent."

The Corrections Department says the challenge now is finding the money in these tough budget times and the manpower to start scanning and saving those parole records.