We are taking about a lawsuit filed recently against the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation about state-wide restrictions placed on registered sex offender parolees on Halloween. CDCR has conducted Operation Boo for more than 20 years, according to the department’s website. The program requires the parolees to observe a curfew on Halloween night and prohibits them from handing out candy or putting up Halloween decorations. They may only open the door to a law enforcement officer — and law enforcement officers keep an extra eye on parolees’ homes to make sure the rules are followed.
As we said in our last post, some counties have added their own items to the list, and that seems to have been the last straw for the anonymous plaintiff. In San Diego County, registered sex offender parolees must post signs outside their homes sending trick-or-treaters away. This, the plaintiff says, is a violation of his constitutional rights by compelling speech.
Posting a sign like that also puts the parolees and the people they live with at risk. While their addresses are available to the public, these signs actively advertise their status.
The rules are vague, said an attorney associated with the case. She says she has received phone calls from parolees asking if they will be out of compliance by admitting relatives during the curfew or putting Halloween drawings by their own children on their refrigerators. Too much is left up to the individual parole officers’ interpretation of the rules.
The rules are also overbroad, arbitrary and unreasonable, the attorney continued. Not every parolee on the registry has been convicted of a crime involving a child. In some cases, too, the offenses that put them on the registry happened decades ago. The plaintiff, for example, is on parole for a drug offense, but he remains on the registry for an offense committed more than 30 years ago — and he has not committed a sex crime since. Even so, if he puts his porch light on, he could be back in custody.
Minnesota does not have a so-called Boo Law. However, Halloween restrictions may be among the conditions of parole. In some ways, that would give the court the opportunity to take the offender and the offense into account. In other ways, leaving it up to the court could result in inequitable and arbitrary restrictions on parolees.
Right now, of course, as far as the sex offender program goes, the state has more things to worry about than whether someone’s porch light is on or off.
Source: San Diego Union Tribune, “Should sex offenders face restrictions on Halloween?,” Dana Littlefield, Oct. 16, 2015