In 1988, Donald Schmidt was convicted of sodomizing and murdering a three-year-old girl. He was sixteen and was sentenced to a juvenile detention center.
Schmidt is now 38 years old, and is the oldest member of California’s juvenile system. Most juvenile convicts are moved to the state prison at the age of 25, but prosecuting attorneys turned to a little-used state law to keep him in the juvenile system by declaring him dangerous. Prosecutors used the same law in order to make Schmidt ineligible for parole.
However, last week the state considered sending Schmidt to a halfway house in Good Hope, California, in order to rehabilitate him during the last few years of his sentence. The facility was less than a mile from Good Hope Elementary School, reports SWRNN. Riverside County immediately began to protest the placement, noting the location of the halfway house, as well as the fact that Schmidt had no family in the county to help him recover, nor did his crime actually take place in their county and therefore they were not responsible for his rehabilitative needs.
The county drew up two emergency ordinances to make the area less “inviting” for parolees and probationers. The first measure calls for a prohibition against anyone operating a halfway house in one of the county’s unincorporated communities. Small, state-licensed facilities were exempt from the ordinance. The ordinance also barred any land-use approval or building permits from being issued for parole-probationer homes.
The second ordinance is more common, and prohibits any convicted sex offender from living within 2,000 feet of any school, park, or child day care facility. However, it also prohibits convicted sex offenders from living together or even staying in a hotel together unless they’re married. It even prohibits hotels from knowingly renting more than 10% of their rooms to convicted sex offenders. Both ordinances are expected to be in effect for forty-five days, at which point the county will draw up more permanent regulations.
Because of the quick action taken by the county, Schmidt will not be placed at the halfway home in Good Hope. The Riverside County Board considers it an example of “what a community can do if it stands up early.” And while the county considers it a victory, the state of California disagrees. Schmidt must be released by June 2011, unless he is placed in some sort of rehabilitative home, in which case he could be monitored until 2013.
Bill Sessa, a spokesman for the California Department of Corrections maintains that Schmidt’s treatment “is in the best interest of every community in the state.”
What do you think? Should communities be able to draw up these sorts of measures in order to prevent criminals from receiving treatment there? Or is California correct in their belief that it’s better Schmidt go somewhere and be watched rather than just released into society?