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Fact or Fiction: In California Registered Sex Offenders Can’t Celebrate Halloween Like the Rest of Us

October 12, 2017

This is true! In California state authorities impose special Halloween restrictions on registered sex offenders and parolees.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is the agency charged with supervising sex offender parolees. Since 1994, the department has run a statewide Halloween night event called “Operation Boo,” in which law enforcement conduct compliance checks on known sex offenders. Under Operation Boo, registered sex offenders who are on parole or probation must follow these rules between 5 p.m. and 5 a.m. on Halloween night:

  • Stay in their own home
  • Not answer the door for anyone except law enforcement
  • Keep all exterior lights off
  • Cannot pass out treats
  • Cannot decorate their house for Halloween
  • Until 2016 in some counties, post a sign in a visible location outside of the home that discourages trick-or-treaters
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An organization called California Reform Sex Offender Laws filed a lawsuit in federal court to have the sign requirement declared unconstitutional. The lawsuit claims that claims that the sign requirement violates the First Amendment and puts registered sex offenders on parole, and those who live with them, in danger. The lawsuit also contended that authorities enforce the Halloween policy in an “arbitrary and unreasonable manner,” taking no account of the age of a sex offender’s conviction or whether it even involved a crime against a child.

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In 2016, a federal court agreed that the sign requirement was unconstitutional, and issued a temporary restraining order against the CDCR to stop enforcing it. The CDCR settled and agreed to drop the sign requirement from Operation Boo. However, the other rules of Operation Boo remain in place, such as the prohibition against decorating and passing out treats on Halloween night.

What do you think? Should all registered sex offenders be subject to Operation Boo, or only those with more recent registrations involving children? Do you believe children are at risk from registered sex offenders during trick-or-treating?

Posted by Mary Mock at 12:00 pm - 1 comment
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