Friday, December 4, 2009

MA Working to Meet Sex Offender Guidelines : State Working to Meet Sex Offender Guidelines.

The state's Sex Offender Registry Board says it is working toward a July 2010 deadline for implementing federal guidelines that would strengthen registration requirements nationwide.

However, questions remain on whether Massachusetts can or should comply with the mandate. Currently, Ohio is the only state that has complied with the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), under the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006. The act creates a national registry and requires states and jurisdictions to meet a minimum set of standards in registering sex offenders and making the information publicly available.

There is a risk of losing around $1 million yearly for noncompliance, based on the 2009 grant figure, but William Leahy, chief counsel for the state's Committee for Public Counsel Services, said compliance has its costs as well. (First year costs of implementation are over $10 million. Click on table below).

Senator Patrick Leahy said the state would have to hire more staff and improve technology, among other measures, to comply with SORNA. In letters sent to Gov. Deval Patrick and Attorney General Martha Coakley in February 2008, Leahy says the state's existing sex offender registration statute already complies with many elements required by SORNA. Most important, the state cannot comply with SORNA's guidelines for sex offender classification and verification and community notification because it would violate the state constitution, he said.
"The existing sex offender registration and notification act in Massachusetts is consistent with the purpose of SORNA and should constitute substantial compliance with the federal law," Leahy writes.
Yesterday, Leahy said a large majority of states have objections to implementing the standards, while here in Massachusetts state laws are an obstacle.
"There's a clash between the federal regulations and state law," he said.