States Struggle As Sex-Offender Deadline Looms

WASHINGTON — A federal law designed to standardize national sex-offender tracking has states scrambling to fund minimum requirements or face noncompliance this July.

The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, passed in 2006, sets minimum standards for public sex offender registries in every state: who must register, the duration of registration and what information is made public.

For some states, the price tag of compliance is expected to be upwards of $21 million, largely due to the cost of modernization required for sex offender registration software. Many city and county jurisdictions throughout the United States are likely to be hit hard financially, as they do not have the necessary computer technology in place.

If a state chooses not to comply with the law, it will lose 10 percent of federal grant money. For states such as Texas, the cost of noncompliance could be as high as $700,000, according to reports.

California officials anticipate it would cost more than $21 million to come into compliance with the law.

Several states are struggling with the timing of the law, since guidelines for implementing minimum standards were not set until last summer, making it difficult for legislators to pass and implement new sex offender laws in time.

Officials in several states are also balking at some of the more stringent aspects of the law, including the requirement of certain juveniles age 14 years and older to register as many as four times a year for the rest of their lives.

The final guidelines were amended to require only juvenile sex offenders in need of monitoring to perform lifelong registration.
Other sticking points include retroactive registration, which would require a sex offender who completed their sentence to register again if they reoffend with a nonsexual crime.

Under the new law, offenders would also be assigned a risk level based on their conviction, instead of a post-sentencing evaluation. As of press time, no states were in compliance.

In related news, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation completed the rollout of a voter-mandated GPS monitoring program for paroled sex offenders.

A total of 6,622 parolees have been fitted with a GPS tracking bracelet that can pinpoint the location of a target individual, monitors movements and notifies authorities of the individual’s whereabouts, officials say.

The 2006 passage of Jessica’s Law required that every paroled sex offender in the state be monitored using GPS.

“The CDCR is holding true to a commitment it has made to fit every sex offender parolee with a GPS device and monitor them aggressively,” says Matthew Cate, CDCR secretary.

Parole agents can use the technology to locate a parolee at any given time and are immediately notified if a parolee is in violation of any zoning restrictions or proscriptive geographic conditions of parole.

Parole agents, who generally carry a caseload of 40 offenders, will continue routine in-person visits, officials say.
The CDCR, which began using the technology before the voter-approved proposition, has deployed more GPS units than any other state or local agency in the United States, officials say.

“California is by far the nation’s leader when it comes to tracking sex offenders using GPS,” says Tom Hoffman, director of the CDCR Division of Adult Parole, which supervises approximately 11 percent of California’s 99,000 sex offenders.