Report 2004-111 Summary - December 2004

Sex Offender Placement:

Departments That Are Responsible for Placing Sex Offenders Face Challenges, and Some Need to Better Monitor Their Costs

HIGHLIGHTS

Our review of the departments of Developmental Services (Developmental Services), the Youth Authority (Youth Authority), and Mental Health (Mental Health) processes and related costs for releasing sex offenders into the local community revealed:

  • Developmental Services cannot identify the total number of individuals it serves who are registered sex offenders, or the related costs, and is not required to do so.
  • Youth Authority's out-of-home placement standards do not conform to laws and regulations otherwise governing housing facilities. In addition, it cannot track the cost of housing sex offenders in the community because of an inadequate billing system.
  • Only three sexually violent predators (SVPs) have been released to Mental Health's Forensic Conditional Release Program, but procuring housing for SVPs may continue to be difficult, and the program has proven costly.

In addition, the State currently has no process to measure how successful the SVP component of this program is or to determine how to improve it.

RESULTS IN BRIEF

As of July 1, 2004, more than 100,000 sex offenders were registered in the State. A number of entities participate in the process of releasing these sex offenders in the community when appropriate. This report examines the process and related costs incurred by the departments of Developmental Services (Developmental Services), the Youth Authority (Youth Authority), and Mental Health (Mental Health) in housing sex offenders in the community. For purposes of our audit, we define sex offenders as follows: At Developmental Services, these are individuals with developmental disabilities (consumers) who are required to register as sex offenders under the Penal Code, Section 290; at the Youth Authority, this population includes youthful offenders eligible for placement in its Sex Offender Treatment Program; at Mental Health, this population includes sexually violent predators as defined by the Welfare and Institutions Code, Section 6600.1

Developmental Services cannot identify the total number of its consumers who are sex offenders and is not required to do so. Specifically, the Lanterman Developmental Disabilities Services Act does not require that consumers provide criminal histories, such as prior sex offenses, when accessing services provided through regional centers. Furthermore, the law only allows the California Attorney General (attorney general) to provide Developmental Services the criminal histories of its potential consumers in very limited circumstances. That same law generally prohibits law enforcement agencies and others from sharing this information with Developmental Services or the regional centers. Because Developmental Services cannot always identify the registered sex offenders in its consumer population, it cannot isolate the costs associated with placing them in local communities. When regional centers identify consumers who are sex offenders, they face barriers in placing them in local communities. For example, one community's protest caused Developmental Services to postpone a regional center's implementation of the community placement plan for a small group of consumers in that community.

We also found that the Youth Authority's standards to assure that basic and specialized needs of the parolees are met do not conform to laws and regulations otherwise governing housing facilities. Because parole agents do not always complete evaluations and inspection of these homes, the safety of the parolees may be in jeopardy. Also, parole offices do not always follow procedures for supervising parolees who are sex offenders, making it difficult for parole agents to promptly identify whether these youths need more intensive monitoring.

In addition, the Youth Authority's contracts with homes do not contain some of the elements of a valid contract. For example, the contracts do not specify the term for the performance or completion of the services, nor do they clearly describe the level of service the homes are to provide. Further, the Youth Authority has not adequately designed and implemented a billing system to track housing costs for youthful offenders. Finally, although the Youth Authority has a conflict-of-interest code meant to avoid potential conflicts of interest, it does not ensure that all of its supervising parole agents file statements of economic interests.

Superior courts at the county level play a major role in the release of sexually violent predators (SVPs) to Mental Health's Forensic Conditional Release Program (Conditional Release Program) and retain jurisdiction over these individuals throughout the course of the program. Once an SVP resides in a secure facility for at least one year, he or she is eligible to petition the court to enter the Conditional Release Program. Although few SVPs qualify for the program (only three since the program's inception in 1995), procuring housing for them may continue to be difficult, and Mental Health needs to improve its fiscal oversight. For example, it lacks adequate procedures to monitor Conditional Release Program costs. According to the former chief of Mental Health's Forensic Services Branch, due to budget cuts it no longer has an auditor position available to perform audits and detailed reviews of costs. In addition, Mental Health does not adhere to its policies and procedures designed to reduce program costs. For example, it does not presently ensure that SVPs apply for other available financial resources such as food stamps and social security income. Finally, the State currently has no process to measure how successful its Sex Offender Commitment Program is (the Conditional Release Program is its fifth treatment phase in this program) or to determine how to improve it.

RECOMMENDATIONS

To most appropriately provide services and supports to its consumers, Developmental Services should consider seeking legislation to enable it and the regional centers to identify those consumers who are sex offenders by obtaining criminal history information from the attorney general. If the Legislature chooses not to allow access to criminal history information, Developmental Services should seek to modify its laws and regulations governing the individual program plan process to include a question that asks potential consumers if they must register as sex offenders.

To assure that at a minimum it meets the basic and specialized needs as well as safety of sex offenders who are on parole, the Youth Authority should address the deficiencies in its out-of-home placement standards and modify its regulations accordingly.

To ensure the safety of the public, the Youth Authority should conduct periodic reviews of a sample of the parolees' case files to ensure parole agents' compliance with its supervising procedures.

To ensure that its contracting process meets state requirements, the Youth Authority should seek guidance from the departments of General Services and Finance.

To ensure that it can accurately identify the costs associated with housing sex offenders in the community, the Youth Authority should identify and correct erroneous data in its billing system, implement controls and procedures to ensure the completeness and accuracy of the records, and reconcile the invoices in its billing system with the payments in its accounting records.

To ensure that it avoids potential conflicts of interest, the Youth Authority should ensure that all supervising parole agents and employees who are performing duties similar to those of the supervising parole agents file a statement of economic interests.

To ensure that contractors adhere to the terms and conditions in its contracts, Mental Health should either reinstate the auditor position or designate available staff to fulfill the audit functions. In addition, Mental Health should follow through on its policy to reduce costs associated with the SVP component of the Conditional Release Program.

To enable the State to measure the success of the SVP component of the Conditional Release Program, the Legislature should consider directing Mental Health to conduct an evaluation of the program.

AGENCY COMMENTS

Developmental Services agrees with our recommendations and intends to work toward implementing them. The Youth Authority also agrees with our recommendations and has assigned a project coordinator to oversee various groups that will have responsibility for addressing the deficiencies noted in our report. Finally, Mental Health agrees with our recommendations and has already taken some actions to address them.


1 Section 290 of the Penal Code includes sex offenses such as rape; lewd or lascivious acts with a child under the age of 14; and sodomy or oral copulation with a minor; or when committed by force, violence, duress, menace, or fear of immediate and unlawful bodily injury on the victim or another person.


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