Denverpost.com: Colorado sex-crime database perplexes.
When President Bush signed the Adam Walsh Act into law, it required states to contribute to a national database of sex offenders with more current and stringent registration requirements.
But states and American Indian tribes are having a tough time implementing some of the requirements of the 2006 law — such as making the names and addresses of juvenile sex offenders available on the Internet.
In Colorado, officials have met for more than a year to decide whether to comply with the Adam Walsh Act by July or lose $240,000 in federal funding. And it may be worth losing the money since it could cost more to fulfill the law's requirements.
"I think at this point, the committee has not reached a final conclusion," said Chris Lobanov-Rostovsky, program director of Colorado's Sex Offender Management Board. "We are looking at the fact that this is an unfunded mandate. The other issue is that the committee and the state are committed to doing what is best for safety and victim protection. And looking at this act, is it going to further the cause?"
The Justice Policy Institute, a Washington think tank that promotes alternatives to prison incarceration, has estimated that the law would cost Colorado $7.8 million to implement.
This fall, the committee is expected to present a preliminary recommendation to Gov. Bill Ritter to decide on compliance. "The money is not necessarily there, and does it make sense above and beyond that even if the money were there?" Lobanov-Rostovsky asked.
In Colorado, sex offenders are classified based on risk to the community. And not all states have the same charges or same coding for offenses, but they all have to become uniform under the act. "We would have to shift over to a charge-based system," Lobanov-Rostovsky said. "We would have to change our sexual-assault statutes, and those are some of the challenges."
One of the biggest controversies for states to deal with is whether to upload information about juvenile sex offenders into the database, such as their address, the school they attend and a photograph.
"We are extremely disturbed that we could be putting kids as young as 14 on this database," she said. "What we would like instead is for people on the registry not to get this sort of ostracism and get them the services and opportunities to help reduce recidivism."
Nastassia Walsh said a national sex-offender registry is not the answer and that money should be spent on rehabilitation or other crime-fighting programs. "There really is no evidence to show that this is an effective way to enforce public safety," she said. "It is just political rhetoric to keep kids safe, but it is turning into a logistical nightmare."
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