Friday, March 6, 2009

U.S. Congress to hear Adam Walsh Act Testimony

Washington, D.C. March 5, 2009
U.S. Congress to hear testimony regarding the Adam Walsh Act
On Tuesday, March 10, 2009 at 2:00 p.m., the Subcommittee on Crime of the House Judiciary Committee of the U.S. Congress will hear testimony regarding the Adam Walsh Act (AWA) in a public hearing at 2141 Rayburn House Office Building. The Adam Walsh Act Working Group (AWAWG) is comprised of national and tribal organizations and experts whose goal is the establishment of effective policies to protect children from sexual violence. The members of AWAWG support the legislative hearing as means of examining the difficulties government agencies are experiencing in trying to come into compliance with the law, and the Act’s unintended consequences and uncertain public safety gains. Complying with the AWA carries large costs for states struggling with budget shortfalls, while the burdens on law enforcement and the impact of registration for families--particularly for youth who appear on registries-- undermine the law’s intended purpose and impede the outcome of ensuring public safety. The AWA has also raised serious questions about implementation and compliance for sovereign Indian nations.

The Adam Walsh Act Working Group is asking policymakers to push back the deadline for requiring state compliance with AWA until Congress has an opportunity to thoroughly review the evidence related to the effectiveness of the requirements of the law and to consider possible statutory reform.

AWA mandates (via penalties for non-compliance) that states participate in a national registry of people convicted of sex offenses and expands the type of offenses for which a person must register. Registration applies to both adults and children aged 14 or older convicted of certain offenses. “In the push to protect children from sexual violence, lawmakers have cast the net so wide that some children are branded as sexual predators and placed on sex offense registries, in some cases, for the rest of their lives,” says Nicole Pittman of the Defender Association of Philadelphia and representing the National Juvenile Defender Center. “This is inconsistent with the goals of the juvenile justice system, and doesn’t take into account that children are different than adults and are the most responsive to treatment.”

In the last two years, states have analyzed the financial costs of complying with AWA and many have concluded that the costs and requirements of implementation may far exceed the penalties for noncompliance and, indeed, may exceed requirements in the Act itself. The deadline for compliance is July 2009. Furthermore, given that the AWA is duplicative of requirements under many states’ own sex offender registries, this burden of compliance with the federal statute may actually hinder public safety.

"The new requirements of the Adam Walsh act will place additional financial strain on our already cash strapped state budget," said Anne Jordan, commissioner of the Maine Department of Public Safety and National Criminal Justice Association Advisory Council member. Tracy Velázquez, executive director of the Justice Policy Institute added, “States may have to choose between implementing these new regulations and the practices that have already been proven to be effective in protecting public
safety. The Act also limits states’ discretion in doing what they think is right in this very sensitive area of justice.”

The Adam Walsh Act, as it is currently written, does not utilize the evidence-based practices that both states and researchers have found to be effective tools in preventing sexual violence and holding accountable people who have been convicted of sexual offenses. “State struggles with compliance are bringing to light the misalignment of AWA with what is known about sexual violence prevention and intervention,” says Alisa Klein of the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers.

The hearing, called by Congressman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott, Chair of the House Subcommittee on Crime, will be the first public hearing held for the Adam Walsh Act, which was passed in 2006. The hearing will include testimony from:
- Amy Borror, Public Information Officer, Office of the Ohio Public Defender
- Madeline Carter, Director, Center for Sex Offender Management, Center for Effective Public Policy
- Emma Devillier, Assistant Attorney General of Louisiana; Chief, Sexual Predator Unit
- Robert Shilling, Detective, Seattle Police Department, Sex and Kidnapping Offender Detail and Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Unit, Interpol Specialists Group on Crimes Against Children
- Ernie Allen, Executive Director, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
- Mark Lunsford, father of Jessica Lunsford

The Adam Walsh Act Working Group, which is continuing to attract a growing number of organizations and experts across a number of professional disciplines concerned with the prevention of sexual violence and the protection of children, currently includes the following members:
Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers
The Council of State Governments
Defender Association of Philadelphia
Justice Policy Institute
National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
National Congress of American Indians
National Conference of State Legislators
National Criminal Justice Association
National Juvenile Defender Center
Office of the Ohio Public Defender

++++What you must do++++

Please contact the Members of Congress below who sit on the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Crime. Please call their offices, especially if you are from the state or district of one of them, and share with them (or their staff members) the following "talking points":

- State your name and address, and if you care to, the work that you do in preventing sexual abuse and working on sex offender treatment, management, and research issues

- "I would like to encourage Representative _____________ to attend the Tuesday, March 10th legislative hearing on the Adam Walsh Act's Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA). It is at 2:00 p.m."

I encourage Representative ______________ to support the goals of the hearing:

to consider the issues and insurmountable barriers posed by the call for SORNA compliance by states;

to consider how SORNA may impact public safety aims;

to examine current research and best practices for the assurance of public safety;

to seek alternatives to the SORNA for effective sex offender management;

to push back the date for final compliance with the SORNA;

to establish research committees to examine the variety of issues both logistical/practical and in terms of the effectiveness of the public safety aims of the SORNA, including but not limited to how SORNA impacts juveniles, the use of actuarial risk assessment-based tiering of sex offenders v. offense-based tiering, the impact of the demand for SORNA implementation in sovereign Indian nations, and the possible legal issues and ramifications of SORNA implementation; and

to consider possible statutory reform of the SORNA portion of the Adam Walsh Act.

House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Crime Members:

Call and write your U.S. Representative here:

Call and write your U.S. Senator here:

House Judiciary Committee of the U.S. Congress
Subcommittee on Crime Members:

Congressman John Conyers

Lamar Smith

Howard Berman

James Sensenbrenner
(202) 225-5101

Rich Boucher

Howard Coble
(202) 225-3065

Jerrold Nadler

Elton Gallegly
(202) 225-5811

Bobby Scott
(202) 225-8351 Phone

Bob Goodlatte
(202) 225-5431

Mel Watt
(202) 225-1510

Dan Lungren
(202) 225-5716

Zoe Lofgren
(202) 225-3072

Darrell Issa

Sheila Jackson Lee
(202) 225-3816

Randy Forbes
(202) 225-6365

Maxine Waters
(202) 225-2201

Steve King

Bill Delahunt

Trent Franks

Robert Wexler
(202) 225-3001

Louie Gohmert

Steve Cohen
(202) 225-3265

Jim Jordan
(202) 225-2676

Hank Johnson
(202) 225-1605

Ted Poe
(202) 225-6565

Pedro Pierluisi
(202) 225-2615

Jason Chaffetz
(202) 225-7751

Luis Gutierrez
(202) 225-8203

Tom Rooney
(202) 225-5792

Brad Sherman
(202) 225-5911

Gregg Harper
(202) 225-5031

Tammy Baldwin
(202) 225-2906 left message

Charles Gonzales
(202) 225-3236

Anthony Weiner

Adam SChiff
(202) 225-4176

Linda Sanchez
(202) 225-6676 left message

Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Dan Maffei
(202) 225-3701

Be firm but polite. Urge them to attend and push for alterations, further review, and looking into all the problems these laws are causing across the nation. Do not let these people tell you that you must be in their district to register your voice. Respond by telling them that the Representative is a United States Congressman and that you are a United States citizen; that we represent a national network of organizations fighting to reforming these laws.
Update: Although the hearing date has passed, you can still contact these subcommittee members to express your views and to urge them to make changes to this legislation!