NARSOL opposes CA Dep’t of Corrections’ blanket exclusion of sex offenders

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Mr. Timothy Lockwood
Chief
Regulatory and Policy Management Branch
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations
P.O. Box 94283
Sacramento, CA 94283-0001

Comment: CDCR’s Blanket Exclusion of Inmates with Sex Offense Convictions in the Revised Sections 3177 and 3315

Dear Chief Lockwood,

NARSOL is a national advocacy organization that defends and protects the interests of citizens convicted of a sex offense. We are acutely aware that this is a very serious subject and in no way condone sexual abuse. But we are also aware that culture, politics and policy over-react when creating proportional sanctions for these offenses. A large portion of our membership is comprised of family members of those convicted of a sex offense. They have seen first-hand the brutal and unfair treatment of their loved ones.

It is clear that CDCR has unilaterally added blanket exclusions from family overnight visits for inmates with a sex offense conviction. The general logic that CDCR cites for supporting overnight family visits would certainly apply to “all” inmates. No authority is cited justifying the exclusion. This is both troubling from a due process point of view but also raises the question as to what other CDCR exclusionary policies have been promulgated which have no supporting evidence or data.

The legislative intent of Pension Code 6404 was to expand the privilege of overnight family visits to “inmates who are sentenced to life without the possibility of parole or sentenced to life without parole date established by the Board of Parole Hearings.” Given the CDCR proposed blanket exclusions for inmates with a sex offense conviction, are inmates with only life sentences a more preferred class?

CDCR states in the NOTICE OF CHANGE the benefits they forecast from the proposed Sections 3177 and 3315. This logic would also certainly apply to inmates convicted of a sex offense.

The proposed regulatory action will benefit CDCR staff, inmates, and the public by ensuring that CDCR is in compliance with the new state laws, PC 6404; but also promotes positive behavior by providing the opportunity to gain eligibility for family visits that current regulations do not provide. The revisions to the eligibility criteria for family visits is anticipated to reduce violence, decrease the level of contraband, and promote an atmosphere of positive behavior and self-improvement to better prepare an inmate for successful release and/rehabilitation.

As for the quantifiable risk associated with inmates convicted of a sex offense the recidivism rate for this population during the five-years following release is 4.0%. That is right 4.0%. This is the lowest by far of all categories except murder. Yet citizens convicted of sex offense are singled out for much harsher treatment than the rest of the felony population. The blanket exclusion is a prime example of this cultural scapegoating.

Since SB 843 passed both houses and was signed by the Governor it is clear that the legislature intended to allow overnight family visitation to inmates serving life sentences. This bill overruled existing CDCR policy on this issue and demonstrated the legislature’s clear intent to extend this privilege to this inmate population with the most severe sentences. The bill also did not contain any blanket exclusions such as those being proposed by the CDCR.

The blanket exclusion that was inserted by CDCR into Sections 3177 and 3315 is frightening in that there is no justification for this restriction. With no evidence or data to support such a restriction we are left to draw the conclusion that the motive behind the exclusion is cultural scapegoating. Sex offenders have already received their sentence so this is the CDCR “piling on” with additional punishment. Again, with no evidence or data, what other conclusion can be drawn?

Please reflect on that fact that lynching at one point in our history was accepted in the U.S. In fact, between 1877 and 1950 there are 3,959 cases of lynching in the country. Those are the confirmed cases and do not include unreported executions. We would argue that extra judicial punishment, such as the CDCR’s blanket exclusion in this case, is a modern-day version of lynching. We are aware that such language may inflame some but at times the truth is painful. And if you are a parent of someone convicted of a sex offense and who is serving their sentence, having the CDCR pile on additional punishment generates its own rage due to the ruthlessness of such actions by law enforcement.

We will be contacting Senate Public Safety Committee and the Public Safety Committee in the Assembly regarding the CDCR blanket exclusions. We doubt that the committee fully understands the scope of the extra judicial punishment being meted out by the CDCR to inmates convicted of a sex offense. If both Committees supported SB 843 we are cautiously optimistic that they will support legislation aimed to protect our loved ones from extra judicial punishment currently being applied by the CDCR.

The correct and proper thing for the CDCR to do is remove the blanket exclusion contained Sections 3177 and 3315. Modern criminal justice policy has no place for such cultural scapegoating. In fact, it is stunning to realize that law enforcement is essentially adding new punishment which has no supporting evidence or data. We have a legislature and court system to provide safeguards and a deliberative process for creating criminal justice policy. Actually, the current policy of the CDCR regarding the blanket exclusion is the perfect example of why those processes exist.

Do the right thing, remove the blanket exclusions at this early stage when the language is being finalized.

Sincerely,

Board of Directors
National Association for Rational Sexual Offense Laws

Letter written by Peter Marana, Director, NARSOL BOD

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