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States Can’t Comply with Sex Offender Database

July 7, 2009

washingtontimes.com : States struggle to comply with sex offender database.

Congress found it easy enough to pass guidelines for a national Internet database of sex offenders. Individual states are finding it far more difficult to comply with those guidelines.

Not a single state was ready to meet a deadline set for this month, prompting Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to grant an extension. With a year’s reprieve, states are now wrestling with what they can and will do to satisfy the guidelines when they take effect in July 2010.

States that fail to comply will lose a portion of their annual federal justice grant(10% Byrne funding which is a pittance compared to the costs of implementation in every state), but California and Vermont are considering whether that would cost them less than implementing the program.

Maryland and other states will have to enact new laws, but some legislators oppose aspects of the federal guidelines involving the registration of juveniles and unlimited retroactivity. Virginia has legislation pending that would make it impossible to comply. D.C. officials say they are close to compliance but are awaiting further adjustments by Congress.

While some states are having problems with individual issues involving the new guidelines, others see an overall picture of dollars and cents. These states may ignore the guidelines entirely because implementation is too costly.

The California Sex Offender Management Board is urging the state not to comply with the act, which will involve “substantial and unreimbursed costs.” To offset the $2.1 million that would be lost in federal funding, the agency suggests using other resources to ensure local law enforcement and other programs are not affected. The board says the state’s current registry is sufficient.

Vermont has only one person updating its registry. Officials estimate the costs to implement the law would run into millions of dollars for new technology and staffing.

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