Six years after a bill establishing a national sex-offender registry was signed into law, Texas and most other states are not participating.Texas already has more than 70,000 people on the state's sex-offender registry, and to participate in the federal system the state "would have to add certain offenses that require registration under the federal law," growing the list even further. Also, the state would have to discontinue the use of individualized risk assessments and rely solely on offense categories to determine the need for supervision and could not enact "The state also would have to eliminate its use assessment to determine each offender's risk to the community." It also would limit the state's ability to mitigate overreach and remove low-risk offenders who shouldn't be on the list. State Sen. John Whitmire:
Texas officials say the national registry is too costly, and it's willing to risk losing about $1.4 million in grant money that would help local agencies enforce the law.
State lawmakers say the grant money is far less than the estimated $38 million it would cost to modify the state's registry program.
"We couldn't afford the national program," said Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, chair of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. "The local law enforcement doesn't have the money, and the state doesn't have the money."
Nearly three dozen states have failed to meet all the conditions of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act because of concerns about how it works and how much it would cost. Texas, Arizona, Arkansas, California and Nebraska have opted out of the national registry.
said the state's system is effective, but lawmakers will need to figure out how to ensure that only most dangerous offenders are on the list. Many offenders are registered because they had consensual sex with a minor, he said.The late Adam Walsh's father, John Walsh, of America's Most Wanted fame, last year told the Wall Street Journal it would be "a crime" if Texas failed to comply with the federal statute. According to the WSJ, though, "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."
Texas lawmakers also should consider repealing language that prohibits de-registering low-risk offenders, he said. Adult offenders are required to register for life.
That's why Grits continues to believe that lazy reporters are the main constituency for the sex offender registry (perhaps along with demagogic politicians), which otherwise provides little identifiable benefit to anyone. I'm glad for once Texas had the gumption to stand up to the tuff-on-crime crowd and adopt more sensible policies than Congress had hoped to foist upon us.