Sunday, April 10, 2011

Texas concerned about cost, flawed risk assessments in Adam Walsh Act

The Wall Street Journal has a story about states including Texas refusing to participate in the federal Adam Walsh Act expanding sex offender registries. Here's a notable bit:
Objections have arisen in such states as Texas, where officials say existing local laws are tougher on sex offenders than the new standards.  The federal act "contradicts what our research over 30 years indicates," said Allison Taylor, executive director of Texas's Council on Sex Offender Treatment, an advisory body with a governor-appointed board. "Public safety would not be enhanced."

Texas also complains that the price of implementing the federal law — about $38.8 million, according to one state estimate — far exceeds the $1.4 million in federal money the state would lose if it didn't comply....   Federal officials say states' worries about costs are overblown. Scott Matson, a senior policy adviser in the U.S. Justice Department office that is helping states implement the act, said one estimate pegged the cost at $18 million in Ohio, but the program turned out running closer to $400,000....

Police say the vast majority of sexual assaults are committed by family members or acquaintances of victims, not unknown perpetrators who might appear in a database.  In Houston, Lt. Ruben Diaz, who heads the sex crimes unit at the Harris County sheriff's department, said it was very rare to find the perpetrator of a new sex crime among those already in the registry....

Other states are also balking at the federal standards.  In a letter to Congress last month, the office of California's attorney general cited "serious concerns" with implementing the Adam Walsh act, including not only cost, but also its inclusion of some juvenile offenders. Some states are raising another concern: that the federal standards use the crimes for which offenders were convicted to assess the threat they pose.  Several states, including Arizona and Texas, prefer a ranking system that uses factors such as the offenders' ages and their relationships to their victims to determine how likely they are to offend again.
Lt. Diaz's comment hits the nail on the head: It's "very rare," by any measure, for new sex crimes to be committed by those on the registry, making  all the extra supervision for such offenders a quite expensive, if ineffective, dog and pony show. Indeed, from the beginning the concept was flawed: In Texas, our registry was created in a bill dubbed "Ashley's Law," after a past sex offender named Michael Blair was convicted of raping and murdering a girl named Ashley Estell. Mr. Blair turned out to be actually, factually innocent of the Estell murder (he was cleared via DNA). So literally from its inception, Texas' registry was based on a false premise.

The grant money Texas would lose is de minimus compared to the cost of implementing the Adam Walsh Act, but misplaced public safety priorities stemming from the law arguably are an even more important reason to reject this unfunded mandate. In an era of scarce resources, there's little cost-benefit argument for devoting so much extra supervision resources toward low-risk offenders on what's become a bloated, politicized listing.

Via Sentencing Law & Policy.


Angee said...

HB 3346- to remove employers from the registry

Rep Lon Burnam 817-924-1997
Cindy Burkett 512-463-0464
Will Harknett 512-463-0576
Jose Alisita 512-463-0645
Wayne Cushion 512-463-0556
Bill Zidler 512-463-0374
Bill ## HB 3346

I have talked to the aides at all of these committee members offices.
They had hearing that went well.
I expect that is because TX Voices is present and pushing the heck out
of this. Please call!!

Anonymous said...

My research says that many, many people on these registries are in categories not likely to offend again. A common one is the 17 -19 year old male who had sex with his 16 year old girl friend; in some states, it is statutory rape if they were together with her in some state of undress, e.g., bra undone or shirt unbuttoned.

Another category of doubtful use is the person convicted of possession of child pornography downloaded from the web. Yes, despicable, but threat to children, not likely.

Sharon said...

The Adam Walsh Act is a 'feel good' waste of time and money piece of legislature. I doubt the majority of representatives who voted for it ever read it. They heard 'anti-sex offender' and immediately voted for it. But things are changing. More and more people are on that registry who pose no danger to the community and those involved (ie, offenders, families, employers, pastors, law enforcement, treatment providers, parole officers) are seeing that we are actually defeating the purpose of the laws by enlarging it. We want safer communities, not bigger registries. The AWA will not only put people on it who shouldn't be there, it will increase the length of time they are required to register. It's a nightmare waiting to happen and even if you don't support the civil rights of those who have served their time, you might want to look at this law and see how safe you feel with it in place.

Anonymous said...

Sometime in the future we'll have registries for all convicts. There will be one for convicted drug users because who wants to live near someone who could give drugs to their children?

And burglars, who would want to live next door to someone who may break into their home?

Murderers, no explanation needed.

Even those who have been convicted of DWI. They may re-offend and run my child over on their way to get more booze.

My point is all of the above listed criminals are more likely to commit other crimes than most who are on the sex offender registry.

They came first for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for me
and by that time no one was left to speak up.

Martin Niemoller, German Protestant Pastor,1892-1984

Anonymous said...

What a slap in the face. How embarrassing.

Texas, you are full of it! If you believe Texas in a budgetary crisis, as many GOPigs would have you believe, you would likely learn that they are engaging in prevarication for political gain. I don't believe their lies for one minute.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how much SB 779 (animal cruelty registry) will cost us if we pass it into law. It is a registry very similar to the sex offender registry for those charged with animal cruelty. More people on a lifetime registry. WOW, we are going backwards for sure. We all know what problems the sex offender registry poses for the families of those required to register.

Anonymous said...

Pretty strange that Texas law is based on a fraudulent case of who actually murdered that child. Why don't they go BACK to the one law that made sense? The Wetterling Act. Tell me, what was wrong with that one? It allows people that are of NO danger and did NOTHING violent, to get on with their lives! Now, why are we not fessing up here in Texas and decide what IS a real sex crime and what is just a consensual or non-violent crime? We have all these young men and women on a registry that did NOTHING to harm anyone. Why are they even considered to be "deviant" and bad people? Maybe they need counseling for internet addiction (online solicitation is a joke of a law but it exists and cops are mostly the ones doing the "catching" by pretending to be pushy teenage girls who are horny), maybe they fell in love, like my grandparents, who married at 14 with my grandpas both in their 20's. Now they'd be on the registry. There are a bunch of joke laws out here in our state that need to stop being felonies and we need to lock up anyone that is an actual threat to children for longer periods of time IF IT IS PROVEN by an independent (don't benefit by working FOR Texas) psych.

The madness has to stop. These are Americans and I haven't read where you lose your rights as a citizen if you sleep with your girlfriend or tinkle in a bush and someone sees you or you touch or kiss a girl that happens to be too young according to LAW, not science. I mean, my gosh, KISSING is Sexual Assault of a Child and if it's more than hmm, 4 years I believe older, it's AGGRAVATED Sexual Assault of a Child! What????? I know a couple of guys on there for kissing! What??

Who will stand up and fight? I've seen lives ruined because of this thing, including CHILDREN.

john said...

Does TX care about children, or is it just raising revenue? Hey, I've been to divorce court, and it had nothing to do with the best interests of the kids!
But this law seems like hate crimes, i.e., redundant laws that are put up to improve politicians' standing (grandstanding!). It wastes time and money for no improvement. I want a politicians registry.

Anonymous said...

Ok the registry may be ineffective, however, they do put on a nice show on halloween when the porch light patrols go out and the SO round ups happen.