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National Sex Offender Registry Delayed by Costs and Questions

Costs and a juvenile reporting requirement have a few states balking at implementing the Adam Walsh Act, which mandates the creation of a national sex offender registry. Only two states have met the requirements of the Walsh Act despite two one-year extensions.

That Act requires a non-public list for law enforcement of youths 14 or older to remain on the list for 25 years of conviction for violent sex offenses. It also mandates states to rely on the level of offense, from violent to nonviolent sex crimes, rather than assess each offender’s risk to the community in determining how long the offender will remain on the registry.

The final deadline to comply with the Walsh Act was July 27, 2011. Since the Act was implemented in 2006, Maryland and Virginia have passed tougher laws for sex offender reporting. A major sticking point has been the juvenile reporting requirements and the multimillion-dollar cost of compliance.

Some believe the juvenile requirement is counterproductive. “The existence of a permanent registry for young people may have a chilling effect on reporting [sex offenses],” said Daniel Okonkwo, head of the D.C. Lawyers for Youth. “Families may be more reluctant to report abuses to avoid further court involvement.”

In the beltway, the District of Columbia is the farthest from implementing the system. To push legislators, some state officials are resorting to scaremongering. “All jurisdictions are concerned that they will be perceived as having a laxer registration requirement than other jurisdictions and that this perception will encourage sex offenders to relocate,” Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Paul Quander told a D.C. Council Committee.

“We’ve seen evidence that sex offenders move from one jurisdiction to another because they may not be closely monitored,” said Linda Baldwin, who runs the U.S. Department of Justice office that determines compliance with the Walsh Act.

D.C. Councilman Phil Mendelson said, “the idea that we might become a haven for sex offenders if we don’t meet the requirements sounds like rhetoric to me.”

Failure to meet the Act’s mandate by the deadline puts 10 percent of a Justice Department grant that states use for equipment and training at stake. For D.C., that amounts to $200,000 and, for Virginia, $500,000.

To fully implement the law, it will cost Virginia $10 million and D.C. has yet to price its introduced legislation. Mendelson said he is “working on a bill,” but “the cost of implementation is likely to exceed the dollars at risk, and the dollars at risk may evaporate with budget cuts in Congress.”

Source: Washington Examiner.

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