Last year, a Chula Vista sex offender parolee was instructed to post a "do not disturb" sign in front of his residence on Halloween night to ward off trick-or-treaters.
What followed was a lawsuit filed by the California Reform Sex Offender Laws organization, as well as the parolee in San Diego County and another in Los Angeles. The policy, they argued, violated their civil rights and put their safety at risk.
Posting signage was never part of existing policy, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, which recently issued a memorandum to its staff reminding them of directives for sex offender parolees on Halloween.
"Parole agents are not authorized to impose rules, conditions or restrictions on sex offender parolees beyond the scope of the existing policy," the memorandum stated. "Specifically, parole agents will not direct any sex offender parolee to post or display any signage or messages outside of their residence, on their vehicle or, on their person relating to their status as a sex offender, parole, or their participation in Halloween-related activities."
The directive was issued as part of a settlement agreement, in which the agency agreed that the Department of Corrections' Division of Adult Parole Operations would release an internal memorandum to all parole officers.
As part of the settlement agreement, the agency also agreed to pay the plaintiffs' attorneys' fees.
For more than 20 years, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has run "Operation Boo," under which sex offender parolees adhere to special Halloween restrictions.
Parolees must follow a 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew, in which they remain indoors and turn off exterior lights of their home. They cannot offer Halloween candy or put up Halloween decorations and can open the door that night only to respond to law enforcement.
There is no mention on the Operation Boo website of a requirement for parolees to post signs. That has never been part of the protocol, said Luis Patiño, a spokesman for the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Janice Bellucci, a civil rights attorney and president of the Alliance for Constitutional Sex Offense Laws, filed the lawsuit last year in October on behalf of the unidentified Chula Vista man.
According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, Bellucci said she learned from her client that there was a requirement for signage in San Diego County.
"We found that requirement to be outrageous," Bellucci said Wednesday. "I believe justice has been served. … Here was a sign requirement that was actually putting in danger the lives of registered citizens."
Bellucci said the two plaintiffs in the case are people whose information is not posted on the Megan's Law website.
"They were very concerned that if their neighbor's found out ... they would be harmed in some way," Bellucci said.
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