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October 21, 2008

Vermont struggling to implement AWA sex offender mandates

This interesting local article from Vermont, headlined "Issues of cost, content arise over state's sex offender registry," highlights some of the struggles that states are having when trying to implement some aspect of the Adam Walsh Act for the registration and monitoring of sex offenders.  Here are excerpts:

Under the provisions of a new federal act, Vermont stands to lose up to $35,000 in government funding if it doesn't expand its Internet sex offender registry. But officials say the changeover would add about 2,000 new names to the list –- and cost upwards of $3 million to implement.

The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, passed by Congress in 2006, seeks to unify Internet registry standards across all 50 states.  Vermont would have to overcome a number of logistical hurdles in order to comply, lawmakers say.  But the new act has also spawned a philosophical debate about which offenders belong on the publicly accessible Internet sex offender registry....

Vermont has about 2,400 sex offenders on its statewide registry, but only about 400 meet the threshold required to land on the more public Internet registry.  Under the Adam Walsh Act, all 2,400 offenders would likely appear online, because federal guidelines use an "offense-based" classification system to assess risk into a three-tier hierarchy.  Anyone convicted of those crimes – even non-contact mis-demeanors – would appear on the registry for anywhere from 15 years to life, depending on the offense.

Vermont, conversely, uses a "risk-based" system that relies on a number of different criteria. And lawmakers and policy makers have thus far reserved the Internet registry for only the more serious offenders....

The Vermont Department of State's Attorneys and the office of the Defender General have said an expanded registry could lead to millions of dollars in additional legal costs for the state, mainly because offenders would prove less amenable to plea deals if the conviction meant a slot on the Internet sex offender registry. The office of the Defender General estimated it would need an additional $1.8 million if the new registry standards were enacted. The Department of State's Attorneys pegged first-year costs at more than a half-million dollars....

The federal guidelines also require more detailed information on the offenders, including their street addresses, the addresses of their employers, their license-plate numbers and descriptions of their vehicles.  Juvenile offenders as young as 14 also would qualify for the Internet registry for extreme offenses. "The question ought to be what makes sense for Vermont and how far do we go?" Sears said.  "Should people who had a statutory rape conviction be on there for life? Or someone who committed a non-contact offense?  These are some of the issues we need to think about."

October 21, 2008 at 08:31 AM | Permalink

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Comments

Aren't unfunded mandates great? The federal goverment should stick to screwing up the economy and let states run thier own criminal justice systems. Vermont is entirely right to beleive collateral consquences of conviction will impact plea bargaining. Removing the discrection of the state to use REASON in deciding who the public needs to be warned about does nothing to protect society.

Posted by: Monty | Oct 21, 2008 2:25:21 PM

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