Sex Offenders, Lies, and Video Tape in California

Sex Offenders, Lies, and Video Tape in California
The California State Capitol building in Sacramento on April 18, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
Douglas Eckenrod

There was a time during my law enforcement career when I believed that the California Legislature made protecting children a priority. I’m specifically thinking about the 2006 California ballot proposition. Prop. 83 was authored by California State Senator George Runner (R-Lancaster) and was overwhelmingly supported by Californians by a margin of 70.5 to 29.5 percent.

Prop. 83, also known as Jessica’s Law or the Sexual Predator Punishment and Control Act, received its name from the 2005 tragic abduction and murder of 9-year-old Jessica Marie Lunsford by 46-year-old convicted sex offender John Couey, who lived in her neighborhood. The case received national attention as Couey was already in violation of the law prior to the incident by not reporting his domicile to authorities as required.

In 2007, I was a parole agent assigned to supervise releasing felons in Lake and Mendocino counties and was drafted by the state to help operationalize the California Department of Corrections obligations born out of Prop. 83.

Prop. 83 broadened the definition and lengthened the penalties for specified sex offenses as well as a host of other punitive measures for those who chose to violate the law in this way. As the law related to my mission, I as well as over 150 other parole agents working for the state, were given the legal authority and the resources to begin monitoring sex offender parolees via GPS technology in the community.

GPS technology paired with traditional surveillance of, and investigations into, recently released sex offenders’ behavior was and still is an invaluable tool to enhance public safety. Recently released sex offenders who found prison objectionable and made efforts to organize their lives toward something more positive could count on random interactions with a parole agent anywhere at any time in their community. For those released sex offenders who decided to continue their destructive path, California had a new and effective tool to help separate the wheat from the chaff.

During the next several years, we were very effective at quickly identifying those committed to continuous victimization and made thousands of real time felony arrests of those engaged in new criminal activity, with many of the aforementioned receiving new prison terms.

Much of the conversation around sex offenses is emotional and anecdotal—therefore, I suggest we stick to the numbers to emphasize the deconstruction of the tools and personnel power dedicated to protect California’s most vulnerable.

At the time of 9-year-old Jessica Marie Lunsford’s murder by a repeat offender, California was experiencing approximately 26 rapes per 100,000 citizens. The law enforcement community was able to drive down that frequency to 19.5 per 100,000 by 2013.

Another strange coincidence happened in 2013, when the State of California began implementing Assembly Bill 109 (AB 109), better known as the Public Safety Realignment Act. Those of you who have read some of my thoughts before know that AB 109 seriously injured public safety and is the gift to criminals that keeps on giving.

Since the implementation of AB 109 in 2013, the frequency of rape in California has reached a 30-year high (nearly doubled since 2013) and now stands at 36.7 per 100,000. The human cost of that increase has resulted in nearly 50,000 more victims of rape in the State of California than we otherwise projected.

Much of that increase results from the fact that many registered sex offenders no longer go to prison and experience a shorter duration of custody in county jail due to changes driven by AB 109. Further, those released from county jail and many sex offenders released from state prison no longer serve any parole period at all and are supervised by local entities that don’t have the resources, experience, or tools to supervise this very difficult population.

The question I ask the reader: Why would legislators intentionally vector convicted sex offenders towards less intensive penalties and supervision post confinement? Why is there a conveyor belt of legislation that’s only aim is to shrink supervision periods for both parole and probation? Why is the state scheduling the decommissioning of many more state prisons?

State Parole responds to paroled sex offender violations 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Armed parole agents conduct surveillance, interviews of family and associates, conduct random searches and drug tests at the offenders home, as well as forensic searches of offenders’ electronic media and devices. In a nutshell, the vast majority of sex offenders wish they were on probation and NOT parole supervision.

We have spoken before about the early release schemes hidden in Prop. 57, we have spoken about the abuse of supposed COVID early release credits, we have even spoken about how sentences have effectively been nullified via these extra judiciary policy changes that I believe are illegal—but I’d be remiss if I didn’t share another insult to our criminal justice system that appears to have been missed by major California media markets.
Senate Bill 145 (SB 145) and Senate Bill 384 (SB 384) (both authored by the most anti-public safety member of the States Senate Public Safety Committee) were signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom and created new pathways to avoid sex registration, prison, and parole for a boatload of sex offenses. As if that wasn’t bad enough, these bills created legal pathways for sex offenders whose victims are UNDER 14 years of age to petition the courts for removal from the State of California’s sex offender registry.

If you aren’t outraged enough, let me describe what SB 145 would allow an offender to do to a child and not have to register as a sex offender. Offenders are no longer subject to mandatory sex offender registration if you sodomize your victim, if you orally copulate your victim, or if you penetrate your victim with a foreign object, all as long as there is not more than a ten-year difference in age between the perpetrator and the minor victim. SB 384 replaced lifetime sex offender registration with three distinct registration tiers, with 10-year, 20-year, and lifetime registration periods.

In further efforts to weaken public safety, offenders now have legal mechanisms to petition the courts to terminate their registration requirements and have all reference of their sex offender history removed from Megan’s Law and other associated databases. I cannot overstate what a powerful tool stigma is in preventing these type of crimes—just ask anyone who’s been to prison.

Can anyone see a pattern here? Here is the next question for the reader: Why are most of California’s major media outlets carrying water for this assault? I was outraged by the bill at the time of its signature and had to re-read the Penal Code section modifications to ensure I wasn’t having some memory issues.

When I searched for news reports on both bills, I was met with a waterfall of media outlets extolling the virtues of the bill from a pro-LGBT equity standpoint. Even more confused, I dug deeper. The bill’s author, as well as an army of online fact checkers, pundits, and activists stated that SB 145 unwinds the built-in prejudice against the homosexual community by bringing equity to penalties associated with sex acts more likely to be performed by homosexuals. This approach appears to be the chosen strategy to create a foil against the outrage of parents and the law enforcement community. I can only imagine the implied insult to the homosexual community at large, which is further evidence that sometimes those who claim to speak for a community actually don’t. I can completely and forever crush this argument with the following sentence: In the VAST majority of California cases, the offenders committed their crime against a minor of the OPPOSITE sex. Facts and stats matter. Just imagine the 24-year online groomer crawling through your eighth grader’s window at three in the morning and you’ll get the gist.

If the bill’s author wants to argue that the penalties associated with statutory rape are too lenient and create an “inequity,” why wouldn’t he focus his efforts on a revision of Penal Code 261.5 (better known as Unlawful Sex with a Minor)? The unbelievable laziness of journalists, the unimaginable thought process of the bill’s author, and the unacceptable submission of the governor to a group of micro-extremists attempting to hijack the agendas of “allied communities,” create a trifecta of attacks on Californians and are creating thousands of victims of sexual abuse out of thin air.

I will end my long-winded rant with this fact: Things in Sacramento are much worse than you think, and the only thing I can guarantee you is more of the same. Read, research, and communicate—or in 2024, I’ll be writing about the Assembly bills that terminated State Parole’s supervision of sex offenders entirely and the lowering of the age of sexual consent to 14 years.

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
Douglas Eckenrod is the retired deputy director for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Division of Adult Parole Operations. He has dedicated his career to improving the effectiveness of California’s criminal justice system and the safety of those who work in it. In retirement, Eckenrod shares his expertise and experience with policy and lawmakers in efforts support improvements to public safety. Over his 21-year law-enforcement career, he has worked in, supervised, and managed California State Parole’s Sex Offender, Gang, and Fugitive operations. He was also chair of the State’s Weapons and Safety Committee, managed Peace Officer Academy Operations, and oversaw Parole operations for the entire State of California. Eckenrod is a graduate of the Los Angeles Police Departments Leadership Academy.
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