Crime legislation: Focus on facts, not fear

Knee-jerk reactions often lead to flawed criminal justice laws. Calm deliberation would be better.

California already had what were arguably the nation's toughest sex offender laws in 2006 when voters, spurred on nightly by fear-mongering television hosts such as Nancy Grace and Bill O'Reilly, adopted this state's version of Jessica's Law. Proposition 83 required all convicted sex felons, whether violent or not, whether still on parole or not, and whether at high or low risk of reoffending, to wear electronic monitoring devices for the rest of their lives. Drafters ignored the fact that there was virtually no evidence that global positioning satellite tracking reduces the number or severity of sex crimes, and they didn't consider whether to allocate the high costs of perpetual monitoring to the state or to county governments. They didn't think through how to penalize parolees and post-parole registrants who cut off or disabled their ankle monitors.

A proposal that might have made for an instructive pilot program that revealed flaws and allowed for course corrections was instead rushed onto the ballot and then onto the books, and California has been dealing with the consequences ever since.

Read on....

This is an LATimes op-ed.  Tom


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