|Budget Issue:||Eliminate State Cost of Sex Offender Assessment Mandate|
|Finding or Recommendation:||Eliminate future state costs for the sex offender assessment mandate by eliminating the elements found to be a state reimbursable mandate, as they do not appear to be a cost-effective method of achieving the objective of ensuring appropriate assessment and monitoring of high-risk sex offenders.|
Chapter 337, Statutes of 2006 (SB 1128, Alquist); Chapter 886, Statutes of 2006 (AB 1894, Leslie); and Chapter 579, Statutes of 2007 (SB 172, Alquist), made several changes to state law related to convicted sex offenders. Specifically, the legislation established a committee to select an appropriate risk assessment tool for sex offenders, known as the Statewide Authorized Risk Assessment Tool for Sex Offenders (SARATSO). The legislation also required the committee to develop a training program for users of SARATSO, and for users (such as county probation and local law enforcement officers) to be trained on the tool at least every two years. In addition, the legislation required SARATSO to be administered to certain eligible offenders, and the results of the assessment to be included in presentencing reports made to the courts. Finally, the legislation required additional supervision and electronic monitoring of sex offenders who are assessed as high risk and reporting of statistics related to the effectiveness of such monitoring.
In January 2014, the Commission on State Mandates found that the state must reimburse local governments for some costs associated with the above requirements. Specifically, the commission found the following activities to be reimbursable state mandates: (1) county probation and local law enforcement training on the use of the SARATSO, (2) county probation administering SARATSO assessments to eligible offenders, (3) including the results of the assessment in certain presentencing reports, and (4) county probation reporting of statistics regarding the effectiveness of enhanced monitoring. The requirements to provide electronic monitoring and intensive supervision of high-risk sex offenders were not found to be reimbursable state mandates as they are considered part of the penalty associated with the crime. Under the State Constitution, such changes to penalties are not considered reimbursable mandates.
The 2015-16 Governor’s Budget proposes to suspend the SARATSO mandate. Suspending the mandate would make local compliance with the above requirements optional in 2015-16. It would also allow the state to defer to a future date its obligation to pay local governments around $600,000 for prior-year reimbursement claims, as well as avoid future costs associated with the mandate, which could reach into the low millions of dollars annually.
We find that the portions of the requirements above that were found to be a state mandate are likely not a cost-effective method of achieving the Legislature’s objective of ensuring the appropriate assessment and monitoring of registered sex offenders. As indicated above, the requirement to provide enhanced monitoring for high-risk sex offenders was not found to be a reimbursable state mandate. Thus, local governments will continue to be required to provide monitoring of high-risk sex offenders whether or not they are required to carry out the activities identified as reimbursable state mandates. Given the requirement to monitor high-risk sex offenders, it is in local governments’ interest to ensure that they identify individuals who are at a high risk of committing a sex offense and that they appropriately train staff to do so effectively. Accordingly, we find it likely that local governments will continue to employ and train their staff to use a validated risk assessment. We also find it likely that probation departments will include this information in presentencing reports to the court if it is available.
In addition, the SARATSO committee would continue to identify a validated tool and provide training resources to statewide entities as well as local governments. Accordingly, it is likely that local governments would continue to employ the tool selected by SARATSO and use the materials provided by the committee to train their staff.
We recommend the Legislature eliminate future state costs for this mandate by amending statute to eliminate the elements of state law that have been found to be a state reimbursable mandate, as they do not appear to be a cost-effective method of achieving the Legislature’s objective of ensuring appropriate assessment and monitoring of high-risk sex offenders. It appears likely that by eliminating the mandate, the Legislature can achieve most of the policy benefits of increased monitoring without increased state costs or requirements for local governments.