OPINIONS

Chelsea’s Law: A Light to Shine On

Today — February 25, 2014 — I want to take a moment to remember the legacy of a girl named Chelsea King.

Chelsea was an activist, a runner, a student, a friend, a daughter, and a spunky, charismatic, jovial bubble of joy. This Tuesday marks the fourth anniversary of Chelsea’s disappearance from Poway, Calif., and eventual murder. While she no can longer light up rooms with her smile or belt out a tune on her French horn, her legacy carries on today in the form of Chelsea’s Law.

Chelsea’s Law protects California’s children today with increased penalties, parole provisions and oversight for violent sexual offenders of children. This law is specifically targeted at criminals that our society cannot risk letting loose again: Certain offenses carry a one-strike punishment, meaning that especially vicious crimes would automatically merit life imprisonment without parole.

The rationale for such harsh sentences is clear: The Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that child molesters and statutory rapists released from prison have a 5.1% recidivism rate — 5.1% of these criminals were rearrested for a new sex crime within three years of their release. While that number does not seem very high, over the course of many years, not adopting a one-strike law would risk the safety of many children. Chelsea’s Law is now in place in California, and variants of it are being pushed forward in other states to prevent these avoidable tragedies.

This law protects society by cracking down on crime. The California Three Strikes Law, enacted in 1994 in response to the murders of Kimber Reynolds and Polly Klass, has similar motivations. It requires that any criminal offender with two prior convictions for crimes deemed serious or violent by the California Penal Code be sentenced to a minimum of 25 years to life in prison.

While valiant in purpose, the Three Strikes Law has done more harm than good.

Unlike Chelsea’s Law, the 1994 law does not specifically target any type of crime. Instead, it uses unclear, overly broad terms such as “serious” and “violent” to condemn any third-time offenders to life in prison. Legally, the term “serious” can include anything from murder to kidnapping, extortion or arson, a definition that, during sentencing, essentially disregards the huge differences in these crimes.

The California State Auditor found that in 2009, 25% of inmates in California institutions had been sentenced under the Three Strikes Law and that the increased costs of the law totaled $19.2 billion. But when safety is on the line, it can be argued that any cost is justified. In fact, the Legislative Analyst’s Office found that crime rates fell by 43% between 1994 and 1999. Is that proof enough to warrant the billions being spent on this law?

No, it is not — for several reasons. First off, the crime rate has been declining since 1991, even before the passage of the Three Strikes Law, so the law has not necessarily reduced crime in any major way. Secondly, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, over half (56%) of those convicted for a third strike were convicted because of a non-serious or nonviolent offense. Lastly, this law has proven to be racially biased to an unacceptable degree, with 37% of second and third strikers being African American. (Only 6.6% of California residents are African American.)

In 2012 California made huge progress by passing Proposition 36, the Three Strikes Reform Act. This legislation aims to shorten the sentences of those that are serving life terms for non-serious, non-violent crimes and who no longer pose a threat to society. The reason for this distinction is that, as a clinical psychologist from the Probation Service of England and Wales points out, this rehabilitation is not equally possible for serious violent offenders, like rapists.

So far, the legislation has been targeted correctly: A Progress Report of this revision shows that those released since the implementation of this Proposition have only a 2% recidivism rate. This is good evidence that the Proposition is only serving to help those that are among the safest to release from custody.

Proposition 36 is a crucial step forward, but it cannot solve everything. The Three Strikes Law is still straining society today. It has placed an unnecessary burden on the California prison system that cannot be so easily reversed. In the meantime, the lengthy petition process for resentencing is now clogging California courts. While papers are being processed and cases are being reviewed, people unfairly sentenced still remain in prison, continuing to raise prison costs and fill space that is needed for more serious criminals.

The Three Strikes Law is a lesson to legislators and voters that policies must be narrowly tailored to society’s most important ends. Chelsea’s Law is a reform that is doing just that.

Although the 25th of February is always an emotional day, this year we can also celebrate the legacy that Chelsea is leaving through her namesake law. Chelsea’s Law continues to protect California’s children from violent sexual predators as well as carry out the due process of law by avoiding the pitfalls of overgeneralization that the Three Strikes Law still suffers from. Today is a day of renewed hope for a better future. Today is a day to remember that Chelsea’s light continues to shine on.

 

Contact Aimee Trujillo at aimeet@stanford.edu.

  • Larry Quintero

    Valigator:

    Your right! (for once) That 5.1% is BS! It’s more like 1.2%

  • Virginia Hall

    Our sex offender laws are expansive, costly and ineffective — guided by panic, not reason. It is time to change the conversation: to promote child welfare based on sound data rather than statistically anomalous horror stories, and in some cases to revisit outdated laws that do little to protect children. Little will have been gained if we trade a bloated prison system for sprawling forms of electronic surveillance that offload the costs of imprisonment onto offenders, their families and their communities.

    Source: The New York Times, August 21, 2011 – Roger N. Lancaster, “Sex Offenders: The Last Pariahs”
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/21/opinion/sunday/sex-offenders-the-last-pariahs.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

  • Virginia Hall

    Do you think she/he/it knows the source of the 1.2% statistic? Surely the California Department of Corrections & Rehab is not a “perv group”? http://californiarsol.org/2012/12/cdcr-2012-outcome-evaluation-report/

  • Virginia Hall
  • Larry Quintero

    Hi Virginia Hall:

    I want to apologize to you because that number is in error. I believe 1.9% recidivism rate is more accurate. I cant seem to be able to find the source again but I must say that wing nut’s numbers must come from biased sources. Here is a link with numbers that do not line up with the 1.9% and comes from the National Council on Institutions and Alternatives (NCIA). I’m sure you are aware that the numbers can be somewhat ambiguous. This is even more so in this article because the author breaks the numbers down by various categories. This is a great site by the way.

    http://nationalrsol.org/resources/ten-myths-abput-sex-offenders/

    Here is a link to a very good in depth piece, but it’s an easy read. It’s not cited per-se but the sources are easily followed. This is another really good site where I think you will fine some very useful and credible information.

    http://sosen.org/2014/01/20/who-really-commits-new-sex-crimes.html

  • Valigator

    Virginia, If you seriously want to CHANGE the conversation on expansive, costly and ineffective sex offender laws than why do you align yourself with men You KNOW these laws were written for?

  • Virginia Hall

    Just a quick comment here on terminology, because it is important. If I wrote “recidivism”, I misspoke. The terms “reoffense” and “recidivism” are often –and wrongly – used interchangeably. Recidivism covers arrest statistics for any additional crime, which would include parole violations, DUIs, failure to charge a GPS, curfew violation, etc. ad infinitum.. Reoffense refers ts a second sexual crime charge, and the post of the 1.9% reoffense (not recidivism) rate is that sex offenders have the second lowest reoffense rate of any convicted offender (except murderers). Nationally, recidivism rates are obscenely high – I have heard 50% and above – for any person released from confinement. It is well known that our correctional policies are a failure across the board, and that recidivism stats are not an accurate indicator of sex offender reoffense.

  • VSPSV(S?)

    Valigator

    I do not who you are but I do know what you
    are. If you think the 5.1% is BS then research it and let the author know. You
    can get the real statistics from the California Department of Corrections &
    Rehab, you know that perv group that published the numbers. Are you a survivor
    or what happened to you, to be so distorted and bent with so much hate? What is
    your motive here or are you making a living on all of this? Something’s wrong
    with you, it’s OK you can let people know, it’s OK. How about it? Be strong, what
    happened to you or what did you do? Don’t worry you are in disguise, be strong,
    tell everyone.

  • Valigator

    Typical..persons like yourself who run across person’s like myself “want to assume” some deep dark motive for my stance on this issue”. How about this? I have NO Tolerance for persons who cannot respect another human beings personal boundaries” I have less for the broken system that deals with them. You sound like some “voyeur” who gets off reading about Victims, Is that what you do all day? ..I already posted the rebuttal to the 5.1% crap, stop being so consumed with your own post and go back and read it.

  • Valigator

    No answer..again typical..

  • gottasay2u

    Must you lower yourself to this unsavory link to discredit your opponent?
    I’ve never been impressed yet by those who take the low road just to try and win and argument.
    Shame on you!

  • Valigator

    My opponent discredited himself with his CP conviction, Its a good thing your impression (s) doesnt make a difference in how “My sun sets or rises” now does it? What is enlightening is your definition of a “Low road”..cracks me up.

  • Q

    Hehe; Valigator has a loose caboose; he he

  • Q

    You sure run your mouth allot. Why don’t you man-up and post using your real name instead of hiding behind that lame screen name you use?

  • Anon

    Go away

  • gator

    You sound like a wing-nut. Is it the drugs that make you think you are psychic?

  • J

    Ha, ha; Good one Larry Quintero! Valigator will never be able to make heads or tails of this. He sounds like a 5th grade drop out!

  • ipsofacto

    You discredit your self because you come off like a real lame kind of malcontent

  • zen

    Wow; I appreciate that fact that you use your name. While Valigator is i here running is mouth and posting inaccurate information.

  • Larry Quintero

    Hi zen; and thanks. The information on the registry is incorrect, and those responsible for maintaining it don’t seem to very concerned about their mistakes, and even less concerned about correcting their mistakes. I never bought, sold or traded anything. A girlfriend and I looked at some pictures once and they were found on my HDD. Every time you open a file windows makes a back up copy. That goes for just about anything you do on a computer.

  • Larry Quintero

    Valigator; you should just stick to your internet porn and stay out of threads you are mentally and emotionally not equipped to handle. So go away and don’t come back unless you learn how to be civil and research subjects.

  • Larry Quintero

    He he, I knew it!

  • Valigator

    and how long have you been a member of RSOL aka Nambla??You people are pathetically transparent..I’ll keep coming off as a malcontent until you can learn to keep your zipper’s up around kids..

  • Valigator

    Not quite Mr. Quintero but good bluff none the less..Some of us have access to your arrest and your court records..wanna try that story again?

  • Valigator

    You mean like “Q”..you little perv??

  • Valigator

    Make me..

  • Valigator

    ahh look..Florida took down the welcome sign today with their scorched earth policy for pervs. Ahh a good day to be a Floridian..

  • Valigator

    I also have zero tolerance for less than desirable border crossers from Mexico who love to lay waste to the U.S. with their inferior family genetics. Someday Larry even the sex offenders are going to get tired of having to fight wetbacks for footage.

  • Larry Quintero

    I’m beginning to think you have been “touched” in a inappropriate way at some point in your life. Is this why why you are the way you are; so angry and confrontational? Well Valigator; were waiting. Is this what happened to you? Why else would you act the way you do? There’s help available for ex victims valigator. You poor thing! I had no idea.

  • Larry Quintero

    Loose caboose and all; no wonder your so angry at the world. And don’t say your not angry at the world; because you are. All victims are angry at the world and usually have diminished social abilities and under developed intellects. It’s my understanding Florida is the undisputed leader in all things “sex”; which is a good thing for you, because there’s help available for you. I suggest you seek out some help.

    Now go away and let us continue our takeover of the world.

  • Valigator

    Dont attempt to “take to the bank” your Observations of those who consider you pond scum Quintero, if you and your RSOL/Nambla buddies were as intellectual as you think you are, you wouldnt be walking around with SEX OFFENDER Status now would you? Thanks for adding your take on “victims” though, it always comes in handy when I am profiling pedophiles like yourself in future banterings.

  • Valigator

    ” In short, a high profile event is a good time to find out where a shortcoming or loophole might reside, but a high profile event is not what policy should be based on.” In case you havent noticed? Thats always what new legislation is based on due to the fact your compulsive, impulsive precious sex offenders thrive on “loopholes”. Yet they still manage to chew up and spit out our vulnerable. Face it, Virginia, your on the losing side of history.

  • ipso facto

    And what about your zipper? And how is it you think these two organizations are related? Clearly; they are not.

  • J

    Are you aware law enforcement is allowed to lie. I tend to believe him because the courts and police have a long documented record of twisting the truth. After viewing the statistics I’m inclined to side with those that say these laws are costly and worse yet, ineffective. They do not keep anyone safe.

  • Valigator

    Pretty much there in Black and white ipso:
    http://www.evil-unveiled.com/Reform_S*x_Offender_Laws_Campaign

  • Valigator

    Oh please your preaching to the choir, no one KNOWS how devious Law Enforcement can be than myself, but there are many stopgates that lead to a conviction .. budgets are tighter and tighter and the majority of prosecutions dont even make it to conviction without some damaging evidence to go forward. Truth be told the majority of those convicted of a s*x crime have usually pled down to lessor crimes than they have committed. While Pro-offender groups love to tout the registry makes registrants “look worse” than they are? The actual court records indicate the opposite.

  • ipsofacto

    More misinformation

  • J

    You seem to know allot about hate.

  • J

    You sound like the biggest zero I’ve ever seen.

  • ipsofacto

    Valigator; You sound like the president of LGBT

  • J

    You’ve got allot of growing up to do. Now go away.

  • http://batman-news.com Valigator

    I would say the link is benign, its the crime the majority of the public has issues with Numbnuts..and yes it is “unsavory”