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March 2009

K~ii), NAT ION A L e 0 N FE R. ENe E of 5 TAT E LEe IS L A T U R. E S

Anotional recession, costly prisons, crumbling roods and a
host of other demands put state budgets in a hole.
Will the recovery package get them out?

S tates are facing a deadline that requires
them to change sex-offender registration
policies or face loss of federal criminal jus­
information they are required to provide,
duration of registration, and in formation
sharing and notice requirements. The new
tice money. fcderal law addresses the nationwide net­
The Sex Offender Registration and Noti­ work of sex offender registration and notifi­
fication Act is a portion of the 2006 Adam cation programs.
Walsh Child Protection Act. States risk los­ As many as 30 states passed new policies
ing 10 percent of the federal Byrne Justice in 2007 and 2008 related to sex offender
Assistance Grant if they arc not in compli­ registration provisions of the act. And 10
ance by July 27. These grants pay for many of those states (Delaware, Florida, Ha\vaii,
state and local criminal justice programs. Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, New
Wayne A. Logan of the Florida State Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma and Utah)
University College of Law has studied sex enacted laws that address many of the act's
offender policy, including federalism con­ place, from 5520 million in fiscal year 2007 prOVISIOns.
cerns raised by the act. He believes the to S170 million in fiscal year 2008. An important requirement of the federal
requirements in the law are not adequately Although there is speculation about law is the tier system of sex offenders. Tiers
supported by evidence of their benefits. how the new administration and Congress based on the severity of the offense and
"Of course we are all concemed with sex will handle Byrne funds, as it stands, some criminal history of the offender affect dura­
offenders and sa fety in the commun ity," states may decide losing 10 percent of these tion of registration, frequency of in-person
Logan says, "but you'd be hard pressed to alr~_ady dwindling federal funds may be less appearances and the extent of website dis­
find another area of public policy in which than it costs to comply with the act's require­ closure.
such extensive, invalidated and costly fed­ ments. Four states specifically addressed sex­
eral requirements are imposed." Hawaii created an Adam Walsh Act com­ offender classi fication tiers in 2007 laws.
While many related sex offender laws pliance working group to determine whether And in 2008, New Hampshire lawmakers
have passed in states since the federal the state should comply with the act. The act created a three-tier system for statewide
requirements were put in place, there gener­ is "so rigid that we need to first study what classification of sex offenders, similar to the
ally has not been a rush by states to meet the compliance or noncompliance would mean act's provisions.
"substantial compliance" standard set in the for our state," says Representative Blake K. Identifying information used by offend­
Adam Walsh Act. ers online is a requirement. Twenty-one
To date, several states have submit­ states in 2007 and 2008 expanded registra­
ted compliance requests to the Department tion information collected to inelude Intemet
of Justice office set up to enforce the law, addresses, instant messaging addresses, chat
which is referred to as SMART. However, BLAKE K. OSHIRO screen names or blogs.
no states have been found in compliance HAWAII One of the most debatcd provisions of the
with the act's requirements, according to federal act is the new rule for juveniles. It
SMART. requires those 14 or older to register as sex
offenders if they're found responsible for a
STATE STUDIES Oshiro, a member of the House Judiciary crime comparable to or more severe than an
Some states have requested studies or Committee that. has been addressing the aggravated sexual abuse erimc as defined in
created task forces to determine their level ISSUC. federal law.
of compliance with the act's sex offender "\Ve have moved toward some of the Florida, Mississippi and Ohio imple­
requirements, and what it would take to fully requirements but the act's complexity, mented new juvenile sex offender mles sim­
comply by the July deadline. Many of those coupled with the severe downturn in the ilar to provisions of the act: 38 states already
studies include analysis of the costs and ben­ economy, gives us pause if we should try," require juvenile sex offenders to register;
efits of complying versus the loss of federal Oshiro says. "I don't know how states are and 15 include juveniles in the state's on­
Byrne funds that would result from not com­ going to have the resources to comply." line registry.
plying. That equation is int1ueneed by the 67 Extension requests to the SMART office
percent reduction in Byrne funds that took LAWS VARY may allow states more timc to decide how
While all states have sex offender regis­ much they are willing to change their sex
Sarah J/ammond and .le/fl'ey Armour track crimina/justice tries, laws differ on many aspects of regis­ offender laws to comply with the federal
issues/or NCSL tration, including who must register, what requirements.

MARCH 2009 STAn l[IlIIllATUA[S 21