02/26/2013 02:40 pm ET Updated Feb 26, 2013

Sex Offender Tracking Devices Being Illegally Removed By Thousands Of California Parolees

A report by the Los Angeles Times has found that thousands of paroled California sex offenders, including many rapists and child molesters, are disarming their tracking devices, often with few repercussions.

As part of California's realignment program, designed to ease overcrowding within the state's prison system, parole violators--like those who have been caught tampering with their GPS devices--are being referred to local jails instead of state prisons. Many of these local jails are only holding parole violators for a short period of time, if they decide to incarcerate them at all.

Likely as a result of these weakened enforcement efforts, the number of registered sex offenders who have removed or turned off their trackers has skyrocketed. The Los Angeles Times reports:

More than 3,400 arrest warrants for GPS tamperers have been issued since October 2011, when the state began referring parole violators to county jails instead of returning them to its packed prisons. Warrants increased 28% in 2012 compared to the 12 months before the change in custody began. Nearly all of the warrants were for sex offenders, who are the vast majority of convicts with monitors, and many were for repeat violations.

Before prison realignment took effect, sex offenders who breached parole remained behind bars, awaiting hearings that could send them back to prison for up to a year. Now, the maximum penalty is 180 days in jail, but many never serve that time.

Since decisions about what to do with parole violators are left up to the individual counties, many of them are choosing to simply turn those offenders away.

"If you're in Fresno County, if you're in Stanislaus County, they aren't taking parole violators, because of overcrowding," Lynn Brown, a victims' advocate at Advocates for Public Safety, told KTVU.

In 2006, California voters passed Jessica's Law, which required that anyone convicted of a felony sex offense be monitored by a GPS tracking device not only while they're on parole, but for the rest of their lives afterward.

The trackers are typically attached by straps worn around the ankle.

A proposal by California State Senator Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) would automatically sentence any parolee who tampers with their tracker to three years in prison.

"These parolees are really the most dangerous is a public safety danger," Lieu told KCRA. "This bill will help enforce realignment by making sure that parolees who have GPS bracelets don't cut them off."