Saturday, October 06, 2012

Texas rebuffs federal sex offender registry law

Though Grits readers have known of this development for nearly two years, since this blog first broke the story, the Houston Chronicle has an item today titled, "Texas won't participate in national sex offender registry," which is an interesting subject, if not exactly "news." The article opened:
Six years after a bill establishing a national sex-offender registry was signed into law, Texas and most other states are not participating.

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.
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:
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.

Texas lawmakers also should consider repealing language that prohibits de-registering low-risk offenders, he said. Adult offenders are required to register for life.
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."

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.

12 comments:

Shana Rowan said...

This might be my favorite quote ever: "...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 have been getting so frustrated over the past week reading all these "news" stories that make it sound as though the states are "failing" to comply with this wonderful law...as if some states hadn't rejected the abysmal failure over a year ago for multiple reasons.

LJW said...

Lazy "journalists" indeed! The real crime is all that money could be used to assist victims, prevention, monitoring of dangerous perpetrators, but instead it's spent on news candy.

Anonymous said...

I'm so impressed with all the intelligent, sensible statements here that I am almost speechless! Thank you Grits, Shana, LJW, you've said it all!

Anonymous said...

The really dangerous sex offenders are on this registry: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Tribute-to-survivors-of-child-sexual-assault-by-law-enforcement-officers/180584842010594?sk=wall

Anonymous said...

Kudoes to the Texas Legislature for refusing to implement the Adam Walsh Act. Now, if we can just get them to do away with the Sex Offender Registry completely . . . It is ineffective, counterproductive, and expensive.
I agree that public ignorance about this issue owes a lot to lazy journalists and those who who panic-monger the issue to inflate ratings. But let's not forget even-handed writers (Jordan Smith, Anita Hassan, Diane Jennings, Emily Ramshaw) who are willing to wade into the story and sort things out clearly. The others are too scared to touch the issue at all.

Anonymous said...

Right decision by the Texas legislature, not necessarily for the right reasons. But to have implemented the federal act would have been a "crime" against juveniles with sexual offenses, not to mention the absence of any rational basis for the adult side of the act.

Unknown said...

This is absolutely outrageous. I would like to see Senator Witmire defint what "Consensual Sex with a Minor" actually entails. The last time I checked, being a minor meant you are unable to consent to anything without your parents.

Anonymous said...

The sex-offender registry serves only one real purpose. Reporters use it to inflame and incite the mob against those on the registry.

Anonymous said...

To Unknown 11:34:00, you are yet another of those fools that want to crucify anyone that has a sex offender label. Do you really think that a 17 year old should go to prison and be on a registry because his girlfriend was 16 and they had consentual sex? If so then you are in the wrong era...you belong with the Nazis that hunted down the Jews. Also, did you know that it has been determined that up for 70% of high school kids have participated in sexting, which by law is possession and distribution of child pornography? I am sure you would want the tens of millions of American high school kids also on the registry? What a crock.....

Anonymous said...

Awsome article. Yeah. Go Grits and Texas with ur bad selves

Anonymous said...

???? *Last I heard being a minor meant you could consent to nothing without the parents consent??* Thats funny because Minors can go to their local family planning clinic and get free condoms and the morning after pill and don't need a parent there to consent.

Anonymous said...

the Constitution says there will be no cruel and unusual punishment secondly it says that the law enforcement can't do anything to you without due process of the law and the Adam Walsh law violates these constitutional rights