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Lifetime GPS under Chelsea's Law mainly targets lewd acts

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San Diego, Calif. (CBS 8) - For the first time, we are seeing some hard numbers on the estimated costs associated with Chelsea's Law.

A News 8 investigation discovered -- when it comes to the costs of lifetime parole and GPS monitoring requirements in the bill – most of the money would be spent on sex offenders with lewd act convictions.

It will take at least a month before a full cost analysis will be completed on the entirety of Chelsea's Law, a bill named after murdered Poway teenager Chelsea King.

In addition to the lifetime parole and GPS provisions, Chelsea's Law would also mandate one-strike, life without parole sentences for the most violent sex offenders, and prohibit sex offenders from visiting parks where children gather.

The lifetime GPS and parole requirements apply to offenders with less serious sex crime convictions.

"Chelsea's Law – AB 1844 – provides for lifetime parole for sex offenses against children under the age of 14," the bill's sponsor Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher said in Sacramento this week. Chelsea's Law passed the Assembly's public safety committee Tuesday.

Fletcher -- a Republican up for reelection this year -- says the money to pay for Chelsea's Law will come from state spending cuts.

"I believe we have enough money in the state of California to pay for this, and it has to be our highest priority," Fletcher said. "I also believe we have money in the current budget to pay for it."

In numerous public statements across the state, Assemblyman Fletcher has said Chelsea's Law would focus on the most violent sex offenders, "the worst of the worst," like serial killer John Gardner. Gardner pleaded guilty April 16th to raping and killing both Chelsea King and Escondido teenager Amber Dubois and faces life in prison.

"We've written a narrow bill that is focused on the most dangerous," Fletcher told reporters Tuesday.

Opponents apparently agree on that point, the worst of the worst need to be targeted.

"Really limited resources have to be focused on the offenders who pose the greatest risk," California Public Defenders Association representative Liberty Sanchez told the public safety committee in Sacramento.

News 8 asked the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to run the numbers for sex offender parolees who would qualify for lifetime GPS monitoring if Chelsea's Law was in effect.

In calendar year 2009, the data show 455 new parolees who committed violent sex acts against children under age 14 would qualify for lifetime GPS if Chelsea's Law had been in place.

During the same year, 1,522 new parolees who committed less serious lewd acts under state penal code 288(a), would also be subject to lifetime GPS under the proposed law.

Those lewd acts include crimes with no substantial sexual contact and even consensual sex acts between teenagers.

Asked whether he believes people with lewd act convictions represent the worst of the worst and the most dangerous offenders, Fletcher responded, "I think somebody who commits a lewd act on a victim under the age of 14 is someone we ought to have great concern over."

The exact costs of lifetime GPS for sex offenders are difficult to estimate because Chelsea's Law would not be retroactive. Added costs only kick in years later, after inmates serve their prison terms and complete at least three years of parole, which is already funded under current law.

However, using last year's numbers, if Chelsea's Law had been in full force, 1,977 sex offenders would have qualified for lifetime GPS and parole at an estimated cost of $14.4 million, according to the CDCR data.

The costs would continue to grow in subsequent years. Using the same numbers, the second year would include 3,954 sex offenders on lifetime GPS at a cost of $28.9 million; the third year would include 5,931 offenders at a cost of $43.3 million; and so on.

The costs go up year after year in similar fashion until the paroled sex offenders finally get older and start do die off. The estimated figures include the costs of parole agents.

For now, Assemblyman Fletcher says the specific lifetime GPS and parole requirements are not set in stone and continue to be a work in progress.

"This is an area we're looking at. So, it's open for further refinement as we go forward," Fletcher said.

News 8's estimates do not include added prison costs, which will accumulate as more and more offenders are sentenced to life terms under the "one strike" provisions of Chelsea's Law.

A total cost estimate is expected from the state Assembly appropriations committee by the end of May.

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