SAFE Act Stalled
Last updated 4/19/2022 at 11:32am
In January 2022, Senator Brian Jones (R-Santee), Senator Ben Hueso (D-San Diego), and Assemblyman Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove) introduced the SAFE Act.
As residents of Borrego Springs, Mount Helix and Ranchita know, half of all Sexually Violent Predators (SVPs) in the California Conditional Release (CONREP) Program are in San Diego County.
Consideration of this bill stalled in the committee when three senators voted against it going to the Senate floor for consideration. The vote along party lines was surprising, since the bill was developed by a bipartisan group of state legislators.
Many of the problems with CONREP are attributable to the secrecy of the state, and that of some Superior Court Judges, when petitions by SVPs for participation in CONREP are heard. Passage of the SAFE Act will resolve much of this concern.
The SAFE Act will do something the manufacturing industry calls “bring daylight” to the process. This was also called “the WestingHouse Effect” and it’s pure American common sense. Passage of the SAFE Act will require the Department of California State Hospitals (DCHS) take ownership of the community placement process which is currently administered by contract with Liberty Healthcare.
DCHS will be required to publicly report the number of SVPs in each county and county district annually. It requires that public safety be the highest criteria of any potential placement of an SVP.
Critical to improving the CONREP placement process, DCHS, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Department, and the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) will be required to report to the governor and legislature any inventory of state facilities that could house SVPs before being placed into neighborhoods.
“I was hopeful with bipartisan efforts – Senator Hueso, co-authored with support from Democrat Jim Cooper from Sacramento – I thought that was enough that we had support from both sides, both parties,” Jones said. “I don’t believe these predators should ever be allowed out in the first place, but if they are, the state needs to take responsibility for that and continue to keep our neighborhoods safe, which is what that bill aims to do.”
We’ve experienced problems with what appear to be arbitrary SVP placements in San Diego County. Many of the SVPs don’t belong here because their sexually violent acts were not committed here or they didn’t reside here. There is also no transparency to the process of CONREP. This is the case with SVP Wakefield who was nearly released into Mount Helix and later into Borrego Springs by Judge David Gill. Judge Gill approved SVP Wakefield for CONREP without considering that there was no current diagnosis or treatment or training given to this particularly violent SVP. The judge attempted twice to place him in our communities and SVP Wakefield is scheduled for a review in San Diego again in June 2022.
The SAFE Act bill is up for reconsideration and can be revisited prior to April 29.