By Cresencio Rodriguez . . . A California law that will go into effect in 2021 is set to bring about the most sweeping changes ever to sex offender laws in the state.
SB384 will allow most sex offenders to petition to be removed from the public registries in 10 to 20 years after they are released from prison, as long as they have not committed another serious or violent felony.
The new law will work in a way that assesses a sex offender’s risk of re-offending. The new law will work as a tier system, with the first tier allowing people convicted of crimes like misdemeanor sexual battery, misdemeanor possession of child pornography and indecent exposure to petition to be removed from the registry after 10 years. The second tier would require sex offenders to register for a minimum of 20 years. And the third tier, for more violent offenders, would still be a lifetime registry.
California is one of four states in the country with a lifetime registration law and it’s estimated that 100,000 people are on the list. With major changes coming to the law, it’s evident that attitudes toward sex offenders may be shifting. Lawmakers and experts alike appear to agree that pushing for more balanced punishment could make the justice system fairer and make better use of state resources. Gov. Jerry Brown has signed the bill, and the state will soon see the effects of the new law.
Meantime, different public attitudes on the controversial issue remain – whether some view the current punishment is already fair or if the incoming law will address what some view as disproportionate retribution.
Those very questions were at the center of a study done for a graduate thesis by a Fresno State student. Eric Galeana surveyed more than 400 students on campus in spring 2018 to test whether their attitude on sex offender laws could be changed by providing expert information on current law and what experts view as better solutions than the lifetime registry, such as prevention and rehabilitation.
“It was three different things that we tried to hit on,” Galeana said. “The first was to establish how (survey respondents) felt about sex offenders … the second was gathering some information on current California legislation … and the third point that we wanted to see was to incorporate the educational video produced by one of the boards that works with sex offenders.
Galeana said the survey was designed in a way to try to find whether there was any significant difference in students’ views before and after they were shown an educational video on sex offenders and after respondents answered a set of survey questions twice.