Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Federal coercion to implement Adam Walsh Act doesn't justify the cost

Thanks to a reader for pointing out these shocking statistics from the D.C.-based Justice Policy Institute which calculated that it will cost Texas $38,771,924 to implement the requirements in the 2006 federal Adam Walsh Act, which expands and broadens state sex offender registries into a national program at the states' expense.

As has become typical, Congress threatened states by telling them they won't get back their fair share of tax dollars they sent to Washington if they don't give up this or that measure of sovereignty - in this case they'll lose 10% of federal Byrne grant funds which are block grants given to states to support law enforcement.

The new federal law "Broadens the range of offenses covered from aggravated sex acts, such as rape, to include sex crimes with elements of sexual contact, even if they are not sex acts," according to the Juvenile Probation Commission (ppt), and expands the lifetime registry to include youth as young as 14. The federal law also quadruples requirements for verification of information in the database (from annually in Texas now to every three months), creating significant additional bureaucratic costs at all levels of government.

Regardless, different Texas state agencies are implementing pieces of the federal law on their own, but purely as an administrative decision without budgetary authorization from the state. I mentioned earlier the Department of Public Safety recently began putting sex offenders' employment information online, which it turns out is a new requirement in the Adam Walsh act. The Department of Protective and Family Services has similarly chosen to comply with the new federal regs on their own as they relate to that agency.

By contrast, Texas officialdom has received the idea much more coolly. Last year the Legislature balked at mandating implementation, so basically those agencies are doing this on their own. Wrote prosecutor association lobbyist Shannon Edmonds earlier this year on the TDCAA website:
Legislation to implement the revised Adam Walsh Act was introduced last session but failed to pass -- primarily because the bill's own sponsors ... decided it was bad public policy.

For the text of the bill, see here.

Some other states have also backed away from coming into compliance, although I can't recall which ones. All states have until the summer of 2009 to come into compliance or face the loss of some federal funds (which just so happen to be getting cut in D.C. anyway, so the loss may not actually amount to anything anyway).
As Shannon alluded, the penalty for Texas not implementing the changes would be to lose 10% of its annual Byrne grant funds, a pot of money which has declined dramatically in recent years.

In 2006, Texas received just $14,045,713 in Byrne grant funds, which means Texas would only lose $1,404,571 if the state chose not implement these new national standards. (Long-time readers will recall that these are the federal monies that once funded Tulia-style drug task forces in Texas, now abolished. Today most of it goes toward expanding treatment-oriented programs and to pay for the Governor's border security program.)

So the Texas Legislature could save taxpayers $37,367,353 and keep the public safer just by telling the feds to "go to hell" and informing DFPS and DPS the state will not comply. That's a big ol' unfunded mandate - a lot of agencies scratch and claw each others eyes out at the Legislature for a lot less money than $37 million. Given that sex offender registries increase recidivism for people on their rolls, I'd prefer we just not do it!

RELATED: See this excellent resource page on the Adam Walsh act from our pal Corey Yung at the Sex Crimes Blog and a power point presentation from the Juvenile Probation Commission about the Adam Walsh act and what would be required for Texas to implement it.


C.U.T.R. "Clean Up the Registry" Ohio said...

Please check out my blog, as I have noted how much it costs those in Ohio for implementation of A.W.A.
Also, you will find on my blog just 'who' is on the registry for 'what'.
Yes, amazing how 'our' money is spent!

Thanks for allowing me to post.


Anonymous said...

It's not just Texas. Every state in the nation will be a big-time loser financially in trying to implement the AWA. The numbers you cite are just hard costs. Look at a state like Ohio, which has already taken steps to come into compliance with AWA. They are now defending against thousands of lawsuits by offenders who committed their crimes years ago, and have been offense-free ever since, yet were reclassified into the highest tier and are now subject to internet and community notification, residency restrictions and all the rest. "Soft" costs like defending against lawsuits, increased incarceration times for those found in non-compliance (either willfully or through not understanding the new laws) could easily double the implementation figures you quote. Not to mention the huge constitutional issues which are being decided across the country for many of the AWA's provisions. The AWA was a bad law, which was snuck through Congress under a suspension of rules, with no debate and very little forethought, all it was, was a chance for select congressmen to beat their chests and proclaim "I've done something to make children safer". The sad fact of the matter is, these types of laws make no one safer. They don't prevent sexual assaults against minors, and they force offenders and their families (including the children of offenders) to the fringes of society. What a waste.

Anonymous said...


There are a LOT of provisions to the Walsh Act, some of which people aren't aware of. First of all, most of the cost schemes out there only give you registry estimates. The Walsh Act is FAR MORE than registry changes (though the changes to the registry is a big issue, as states like Ohio and Oklahoma have found uwards of 80% of Former Offenders now "Tier 3" offenders). The Walsh act ALSO includes Mandatory Minimums, GPS pilot programs, Civil Commitment, and a CHILD ABUSE REGISTRY, all of which will add to the cost of implementing the Walsh Act.

Civil commitment is the costiest proposal (see http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/csot/csot_ccost.shtm)

There will be a few people who will say, "I don't care about the cost." Well, they should care about the effects. A I previously mentioned, states that passed the Walsh Act found that around 80% of RSOs are now Tier 3 because the AWA bases risk on the charge rather than a qualified risk assessment. Under the old system, only about a fourth to a third of offenders were placed on Tier 3 in staes with a pre-AWA tier system. This means that there is no longer any indicator of risk. The Walsh Act merely adds to the paranoia against Former Offenders. That causes major barriers to the rehabilitation efforts of Former Offenders.

More importantly, people don't realize that the vast mjority of sex crimes are NOT committed by individuals plastered on a registry. Most are first time offenders (between 87% and 95% depending on the locale). The Walsh Act cannot prevent sex crimes. In fact, in this decade, the penalties for sex crimes increased tenfold, yet the number of sex crimes in the US has remained a CONSTANT. It has not significantly increased or decreased since around the year 2000. I have lots more interesting facts at my website, www.oncefallen.com.

Want to rduce recidivism? We need to rethink our approach to the issue. Ostracism and banishment is backfiring. We should stress teaching sexual responsibility and prevention, coupled with treatment and rehabilitation of ormer Offenders. Why is it we teach our teens how to wear a rubber but not tell them if they USE it on their dates they ould land on a sex offender registry? Our country has a LOT of learning to do

SB said...

There is no funding for this so 10 % 0f 0 is 0.
Last year Shiparo announced that our SO laws are strong enough. 2 weeks later Abbot announced the $1.2 million software that adds employers to the registry. AG Abbot is drooling over this and the $ are being spent with no vote. And some of these mandates are not holding up when challenged in court,
If this is passed out state officials become information gathers for the Feds and we pay the bill. The AWA is page after page of punishments with nothing about rehab or prevention. It's a nightmare.

Anonymous said...

Actually, if you look closely at the provisions of the AWA as regards posting an offender's place of employment on-line the AWA makes it optional, not mandatory. Just the same, many states want to do it mistakenly thinking that "they have to" and as mentioned before, ignorant chest beating politicians will do anything to get just one more vote and damn the consequences.


I have great statistics on what the costs to states are, and how each state stands to lose Millions of Dollars IF they implement the Adam Walsh Act.

Most legislators do not realize that this is true.

Look at the breakdown here

SB said...

These laws are based on stranger abduction/rape/murder and apply to less than 1/2 of 1% of crimes.

John Walsh is still pushing stranger/danger and our kids are paying the price. 80 to 90% of crimes do not involve a stranger. He continues to zap up all of the funding and passing out wrong information.

There are groups that help with search and rescue, food, hand holding or whatever is needed with a child disappears. The Walsh bunch offers none of that. John Walsh left the studio for a 9/11 kodak moment.
His latest CD is $19.95 and a safety whistle is 5 bucks. If things things work we should be giving them away in the street.

Anonymous said...

I think we need to be very careful about who we put on sex offender registries - especially youthful offenders.

That said, true sex offenders are ace predators. Anyone who has dealt with a few of them knows how dangerous they can be - especially the pedaphiles. Recidivism is a measure of who got caught reoffending. "Got caught" are the operative words here. Perhaps the fact they were on the registry made it easier to catch them.

Anonymous said...

I think we need to be very careful about who we put on sex offender registries - especially youthful offenders.

That said, true sex offenders are ace predators. Anyone who has dealt with a few of them knows how dangerous they can be - especially the pedaphiles. Recidivism is a measure of who got caught reoffending. "Got caught" are the operative words here. Perhaps the fact they were on the registry made it easier to catch them.

well seeing that 97% of all newly reported sex ofenses are NOT done by people on the registry, it is true that we need to be very mindful of who is put on a registry. Government is using it as a dumping ground for more and more offenders that other-wise should not have any more than a misdemeanor crime charge. Teens having sex, dudes peeing on sidewalks, Consensual sex that turns into 'rape' the next day all fall into these areas that should not be on a registry.

AWA does even more to add to this list of people that should never have been on the list to begin with. Sadly, all that can be done is vote these dillweeds out of office, and have the new leaders get rid of the laws that govern it.

All of you fathers out there make sure you teach your sons that women are evil and they need to stay away from them at all costs. If not, they are going to be the next person on the registry when she decides society at large will think her loose for sleeping with the football team.

Anonymous said...

Texas definitely can not afford AWA and needs to amend its current laws which were also made to comply with previous federal guidelines. If we must have a registry, it needs to be only for the most dangerous offenders, not most of the 54,000+ who are on it now. Dangerous offenders are those who show no regard for human life or little intention of following society's rules after being punished for a mistake. All others should be allowed to live label free.

Anonymous said...

Well S.431 has passed the house in a late session last night. Even Congress is growing embarrassed to what laws they KNOW are illegal and do not want as a public knowledge item.

Screw the Government, They haven't been for the people in many many years.

SB said...

AAAWA-American's Against Adam Walsh Act

Grit's readers have provided so many comments and resources that it becomes impossible to go back and find a particular item. I quickly threw up this forum as a central location for collecting this data. Please help me to accomplish this by posting in both places.
If your information pertains to a certain state please advise us as to which state at the beginning of the title line.
Someone made the remark that we have figures on the financial aspect that our leaders probably lack.That simple concept is so familiar that it must be correct and it is something we can change.
Few people go to Austin to speak before the committee. It is nothing to be afraid of since it consists of the bored committee members and a couple of other people who are waiting to speak. Getting their attention is a challenge.An easy way to accomplish that is to take a couple of dozen supporters who will applaud, whistle and stomp their feet to show approval for speakers in our behalf. The puny attendance of speakers and complete void of supporters allows lawmakers to pass anything they please. Then it is too late.

SB said...

DOJ To Give States $4M Grant For Adam Walsh Act Compliance

The Department of Justice's Office of Justice Programs (OJP) has announced a nearly $4.3 million grant to assist states in creating and/or enhancing their sex offender registry and notification programs. The grants will help states implement provisions of the federal Adam Walsh Act. From the press release:

These grants, administered by OJP's Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering and Tracking (SMART), will help state, local and tribal governments implement provisions of the Adam Walsh Act.

"This funding will enhance crime prevention efforts and help create a system where there is no corner of our country in which convicted sex offenders can hide without the local community being aware of their presence," said Laura L. Rogers, Director of the SMART Office. "Increased awareness will help us protect our kids, teens and vulnerable adults and prevent sex offenders from victimizing more people."

Funding will be used to develop or enhance sex offender registration programs; improve law enforcement and other justice agency information sharing as it relates to sex offender registration and notification; develop or enhance local absconder apprehension efforts; collect, store, and analyze sex offender biometric and DNA data for investigative purposes; and implement other efforts aimed at furthering the objectives of Title I of the Adam Walsh Act, the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA).

This certainly sweetens the pot and could get a few recalcitrant states to adopt AWA compliance legislation.
» Read full article on[Sex Crimes]