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The Offenders No One Wants Released

Senator Marie Alvarado-Gil speaking at a press conference in Merced County, opposing the release of a Sexually Violent Predator.
Senator Marie Alvarado-Gil speaking at a press conference in Merced County, opposing the release of a Sexually Violent Predator.

As a mother of children who are now adults, I recall being haunted by the possibility of having their safety compromised by a child predator, or a Sexually Violent Predator (SVP), no less. Are they safe walking home from school? Do their friends live in safe neighborhoods? Sexually Violent Predators have earned their title – they have been convicted of heinous crimes and diagnosed with severe mental disorders. They have legally been labeled as such and they present a clear danger to our neighborhoods and families.

Becoming a Sexually Violent Predator does not happen by accident. These are individuals who have committed egregious acts of sexual violence and have been diagnosed with a mental disorder that predisposes them to reoffend. Traditional rehabilitation methods are often unsuccessful, and require specialized treatment and intensive supervision. The vast majority of these predators have a lengthy history of sexual violence dating back decades.

In California, we have legislation in place to address the management of Sexually Violent Predators, notably Senate Bill 1034, which went into effect in 2023. This bill aimed to enhance oversight and management by providing clearer guidelines for an SVP’s release and supervision. However, despite these efforts, significant loopholes persist in the law. One glaring gap allows Sexually Violent Predators to be released on transient status – in other words, they are permitted to reside in an RV-like trailer in communities, as long as schools or daycares are not nearby. This provision is deeply troubling; these individuals could potentially live next door to families, putting our loved ones at risk. This cannot be tolerated.

Currently, my district faces a pressing issue, with five sexually violent predators slated for release. These individuals have committed unspeakable acts, and it is my duty – along with my colleagues in the legislature – to ensure these predators do not pose a threat to society upon their release. In the 13 counties I represent, predominantly rural communities, we often witness the dumping of Sexually Violent Predators into our neighborhoods. This practice places an undue burden on our already vulnerable communities. Right now, there are 21 Sexually Violent Predators who are eligible for release across the state, and an additional 14 who are pending release through the Department of State Hospitals’ (DSH) Conditional Release Program (CONREP). It’s already challenging enough for the DSH to find suitable housing for these predators – to consider transient status for an SVP’s release is beyond preposterous, and I don’t want to imagine what the future holds if that was to become the case.

What’s equally as disturbing is the misinterpretation of SB 1034 by the DSH and some local courts. Current law states any Sexually Violent Predator pending release must be released into their county of domicile. Additionally, the DSH must form a public housing committee and publicly post meetings to involve residents and county leaders. If the DSH is unable to find suitable housing for the individual in their county of domicile, they must petition the court under “extraordinary circumstances” to restart the housing search in the newly identified county. In 2022, Amador County fought vehemently to keep a Sexually Violent Predator from being released into its jurisdiction and won in 2023, after SB 1034 passed. Now, Merced County is in the same position, as a recent ruling by the Stanislaus County Superior Court – the county of domicile for the predator – stated he is to be released in Merced County this month.

The decision-making process surrounding the placement of Sexually Violent Predators remains shrouded in mystery. We don’t know who’s making the decisions. We don’t know how the decisions are being made. This lack of transparency only fuels public distrust and exacerbates the challenges we face.

We cannot continue to ignore these glaring issues. We owe it to our communities to take strong action to address these loopholes and ensure the safety of our residents. This means strengthening oversight mechanisms related to the Department of State Hospitals, closing the gaps in our laws that allow Sexually Violent Predators to evade accountability, and advocating for increased funding for mental health resources, especially in rural communities. It’s time to put an end to the dangerous practice of allowing Sexually Violent Predators to roam freely in our communities. Our families deserve better, and I am pledging to work with my fellow colleagues in the legislature to bring change.

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