CBSnews.com : Tracking Sex-Crime Offenders / Violator Registry Is Growing.
There are more than 716,000 registered sex offenders nationwide, according to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, a 78 percent increase since 2001, and that does not include all offenders because some crimes do not require registration. Sex-offender registries have grown even faster in the Washington area, with more than 24,000 people listed.
The focus on crimes against children that began in the Bush administration shows no sign of abating under President Obama. Federal child sexual exploitation prosecutions are up 147 percent since 2002, and the Justice Department is hiring 81 more prosecutors for these cases. Funding for task forces that bring charges in state courts rose this year from $16 million to $75 million.
But many of those offenders are now leaving prison, even as revenue-strapped states are cutting the budgets of probation departments. In Virginia, probation and parole cuts this year totaled nearly $10 million, including $500,000 for electronic monitoring of sexually violent predators. Maryland also has cut its budget.
"The burden on probation and parole officers is going to explode," said Ernie Allen, the national center's president.
The monitoring of virtually all sex offenders is required by law when they are on probation or parole.
Recent cases underscore a troubled registry system that has been the public face of sex-offender monitoring. An estimated 100,000 offenders do not comply with registration requirements. Law enforcement doesn't know where many of them are.
Sipes said officers are especially worried about social networking sites frequented by children, such as MySpace, which this year said it banned 90,000 registered sex offenders. Facebook has said it is also actively trying to prevent sex offenders from joining its site.
Hysteria about these social netowrking sites has long ago been proven to be overblown.
See our postings "Report Calls Online Threats to Children Overblown", and "Sex Offender on Social Site = Felony"
A monitoring program installed on an offender's computer is designed to capture every keystroke, Internet site and program, including chat and e-mail. Officials can monitor the computer remotely by logging onto a Web site or getting an e-mail if the offender does anything troublesome. Yet even this new tool is flawed. The software won't stop an offender from sneaking a laptop, using a family member's computer or logging on at the library. There is virtually no monitoring equipment for cellphones, BlackBerries or children's gaming devices, which require a time-consuming and expensive forensic analysis. The monitoring equipment is expensive, so many agencies can't afford it or use a free program that can't retrieve deleted files.
1. The Adam Walsh Act and other new and expanding sex offender laws are diluting and exploding the sex offender registries to include vast numbers of citizens, which continue to grow each and every day. Meanwhile of course, more of our money is being spent on pursuing these increasing efforts.
2. Even with all the funding and resources devoted to these laws, they are proven to be ineffective as 1-in-7 offenders do not register or cannot be found. And of course, the punishments are being imposed upon those who have registered at least once, or whose locations ares known by law enforcement.
3. Focusing on proven false dangers, such as social networking, only takes away from the effectiveness of a legitimate sex offender policy.
4. Just as with residency restrictions, computer monitoring software only creates the illusion of enforcement because any offender can access a computer at many other locations - just as any offender can bus, walk or drive to a park.