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The Adam Walsh Act: Before Its Inception - Part-1


109th Congress, Hearing before the, House Judiciary, Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security on June 9, 2005: HOUSE BILLS ON SEXUAL CRIMES AGAINST CHILDREN The bills under discussion are:
HR-764: To require the Attorney General to establish a Federal register of cases of child abuse or neglect.
Note: HR-764 was listed in the bills under discussion in this hearing, but, the system it represents (State Central Child Abuse Registries) has nothing to do with former sex offenders. Ultimately, in the hearing there is nothing discussing this bill.
HR-95: Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Database Act of 2005

HR-1355: Child Predator Act of 2005

HR-1505: Jessica Lunsford Act

HR-2423: Jacob Wetterling, Megan Nicole Kanka, and Pam Lychner Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act

HR-244: Save Our Children: Stop the Violent Predators Against Children DNA Act of 2005

HR-2796: DNA Fingerprinting Act of 2005

HR-2797: Aime Zyla Act of 2005
The purpose here is to continue documenting events leading up to the Adam Walsh Act. Selected portions of this particular hearing, chaired by Mr. Coble, follow:


Mr Scott: Opening Remarks
Mr Scott's OPENING STATEMENT (pg-3):
Mr. SCOTT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this hearing on the various bills regarding sex and other violent crimes against children.

A host of bills have been filed by Members on both sides of the aisle in the wake of several horrific sex crimes and murders against children in recent years. These types of crimes are especially abhorrent, and the public demands actions to address them and to prevent similar crimes, to the extent possible.

I know all of the bills before us are developed with these objectives in mind. However, as policymakers, we know that these types of tragedies will occur from time to time; so it is incumbent upon us not to simply do something, but to do something that will actually reduce the incidences of these crimes.

We know that many more children die as a result of child abuse that is reflected by tragic cases of child sexual abuse and murder than we have seen in the news. And we know that the vast majority of child abusers, including child sex offenders, were abused themselves as children.

We also know that the vast majority of abusers are relatives and other individuals well known to the child and family—90 to 95 percent, according to Be a Child’s Hero Network—and that most cases of abuse are never reported to authorities, or even dealt with in an official manner.

It would be nice to think that we can legislate away the possibility of such horrific crimes, but it is not realistic to believe that we can. And we should certainly seek to avoid enacting legislation that extends scarce resources in a manner that is not cost-effective or that actually makes the problem worse.

While it is clear that having police and supervision authorities aware of all location and identification information about convicted child sex offenders, it is not clear that making that information indiscriminately available to the public, with no guidance or restriction on what they can do with or in response to such information, is helpful or harmful to children.

There have been incidences of vigilante and other activities which have driven offenders underground. And again, the vast majority of offenders are family members or associates well known to the victim. In one recent case, a teacher was reading the names of offenders to a grade school class, in which the name of the father of one of the students, the victim, was in the class.

Some of the elaborate procedures and requirements of the bills before us will cost a lot of money. And we should assure that such cost/benefit analysis of what would be the most productive use of such money should take place; rather than simply impose the requirements, without any reference to effectiveness or cost/benefit.
Some States have already enacted initiatives, such as those we’ll hear today. Hopefully, we’ll hear what effect those initiatives have had on crimes against children, so we can consider Federal legislation which will be the most cost-effective.

So, Mr. Chairman, in hearing the testimony today we’ll be listening for anything that reflects research and reliable evidence regarding to what might actually protect children and reduce incidences of child sexual and other abuse.

I know we all mean well, but we also must assure that what we do will be actually productive, rather than something that just sounds good but might actually be counterproductive. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Then the Chairman made this announcement (p-9):
Folks, it’s good to have you all with us. I will say to you that our Subcommittee operates under the 5-minute rule. We apply that 5-minute imposition against you, as well as against ourselves. So when you see the red light illuminate in your eye in that panel in front of you, Mr. Scott and I will be breaking out the buggy whip if you don’t wrap up before too long.

But if you can stay with the 5-minute time rule, we’d appreciate it for a couple of reasons. Number one, time is of the essence. And number two, we have a second hearing on this subject matter immediately following this one.

Mark Foley: Oral Testimony
Before reviewing the testimony of Mark Foley it is important to note the 2006 scandal he was involved in with Congressional Pages. From that link it appears several folks in Congress were aware of what was going on as far back as 1995. While I know of no law that would nullify the law proposed by Foley (Title-I of the Adam Walsh Act, SORNA) there should be a law to rescind any such bills presented by a Congressman while in office as he was. My opinion!

Next Mark Foley's "Oral Testimony" (p-6):
Mr. FOLEY. Thank you, Chairman Coble and Ranking Member Scott. On behalf of Congressman Bud Cramer and myself and the Congressional Missing and Exploited Children’s Caucus, I want to thank you for holding this important hearing today, for giving me the opportunity to testify on H.R. 2423, the ‘‘Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA).’’
....
There are many reasons we have not been able to keep track of these dangerous predators, but let me highlight a few.

First, uniform registration information is not being collected. While most States have some form of registry, they are not usually the ones collecting the registration information. Instead, that responsibility falls on local communities, who use their own specialized criteria and then pass along the info to the States; which results in a registry with inaccurate and conflicting information.
Foley is under a complete misunderstanding of how information is collected by states that have registries. He believes that local jurisdictions decide what is going to be collected, and then they pass on to the state whatever they feel like. REALITY IS: States decide what is to be collected, and local jurisdictions follow that, and pass on what the state dictates.
....
Third is that most States are not completely complying with the law because the carrot-and-stick approach we developed in the original law does not apply. In practice, States are supposed to be eligible for funds for any costs associated with implementing the law. However, we in Congress never funded the program. In addition, the penalty assigned to States for not complying, a 10 percent reduction in JAG funding, no longer applies, because of the way we changed that formula last year.
At this point (March 2011) I have not been able to trace what Foley meant by the above comment. If there is any truth to the statement, then such may effect state funding today in 2011.
....
Sex offenders are not petty criminals. They prey on our children like animals, and they will continue to do so unless we stop them. We need to change the way we track these pedophiles.

Mr. Chairman, it has been noted that a society can be judged on how it best treats its children. We have a moral responsibility to do everything in our power to protect our kids from these animals. This bill will turn the tables, and make prey out of these predators. Failing to act on this measure is just playing Russian roulette with our children.


Mr . Poe: Oral Testimony & A Snip-it
Next comes from Mr. Poe of Texas, during his "Oral Testimony" (p-9):
On March 15th of this year, I introduced the very first bill in Congress that I’ve introduced, House Resolution 1355, the ‘‘Child Predator Act of 2005,’’ to hold criminals accountable; impose tougher sentences for child predators who repeat.
...
First, the Child Predator Act defines the term of a ‘‘child predator’’ as a person who has been convicted of a sexual crime against a victim who is a minor, if the offense is sexual in nature and the minor is of the age of 13 years or younger.
....
Third, the Child Predator Act requires community notification. Child predators would have to notify, at a minimum, schools, public housing, and at least two media outlets such as newspapers and television stations, radio stations, that are covering the community.
....
And finally, this Act would require prominent flagging of all the records in the national database of child predators.

Please Notice: Rep. Poe wanted REGISTRANTS -themselves- to perform community notification of the places and businesses mentioned. There is no way that would ever pass court muster, and he being a former judge knows that. There is no doubt, MR. Poe's intent was further punishment! And given the term of registration then being, 10 years or life, clearly would have had dire effects on registrants and their families.

Now, a next snip-it comes from Mr. Poe of Texas, where they were talking about how to sell the idea of a National Registry (p-25):
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Congressman Poe? I’m going down the line.

Mr. POE. Thank you, Jackson Lee. I appreciate your concern about this epidemic. It’s not only a crime issue. I think we should make a statement that it is a public health issue, when you’re dealing with the health and wellbeing, physical and mental health, of children. That would be the first place that I would move on a national basis.

And second, based on the over 20,000 criminal cases I heard— and a good many of them are these type of cases—the one thing that these individuals want is to remain anonymous. Those days need to be over. Therefore, community notification in my bill I think is vital; that they notify the communities which they move into.

And the second thing we know is that they repeat again. The people I’ve tried, we know that most of them had multiple crimes against the one victim, and there were other victims as well that were never in the courtroom that were also prey to these individuals. So community notification and a public health issue.
Notes: As we know today the "Public Health" concept was dropped in favor of "Community Notification" message, very likely because the public would not support calling it a "Public Health" issue.

Ms Ginney Brown-Waite: Oral Testimony
Rep Ginny Brown-Waite (FL):


Mr. Pomeroy: Oral Testimony
Rep Earl Pomeroy (ND): (Bottom of Page)


Mr Scott: Q&A Period
Next is a short question / answer section held by Chairman Coble and Mr. Scott to point out certain items within the testimony . Of particular note are Mr. Scott's comments (pg-13), they are:

Mr. SCOTT. Of all of the children abused in America, how many are abused by those who have already been convicted of a sex offense and would be covered by this notification?

Ms. BROWN-WAITE. There have been estimates. I have seen estimates, Mr. Scott, of anywhere from a recidivism rate of about 24 percent, all the way up to a very high percentage, over 50 percent, so I don’t——

Mr. SCOTT. What does ‘‘recidivism rate’’ mean?

Ms. BROWN-WAITE. The ‘‘recidivism rate’’ means they were a sexual offender on a child; they got out, and did it again, sir.

Mr. SCOTT. Did anything again? Or the 3 percent that would offend again with a sex offense?

Ms. BROWN-WAITE. Yes, they were sex offenders. Sex offense.

Mr. SCOTT. It’s your testimony that the recidivism rate for sex offenders is higher than average recidivism rate? That’s your testimony?

Ms. BROWN-WAITE. I didn’t compare it to average recidivism rate, sir. I just gave the criminal rate——

Mr. SCOTT. Of the portion of children that are abused, what portion are abused by those convicted of a child abuse crime?

Ms. BROWN-WAITE. Of the percentage of children who are sexually abused——

Mr. SCOTT. Right.

Ms. BROWN-WAITE. —what percentage are violated by somebody who previously was convicted of a sex crime?

Mr. SCOTT. Right.

Ms. BROWN-WAITE. Again, that figure, the recidivism rate figure, is 24 percent——

Mr. SCOTT. Do you know? It’s a very simple question. If a million children have been abused, how many of them were abused by someone already convicted of a sex crime against children? Do you know?

Ms. BROWN-WAITE. Mr. Scott, I don’t know.

Mr. SCOTT. Okay.

Ms. BROWN-WAITE. I can only give you the recidivism rate.

Mr. SCOTT. Does anybody on the panel know? The Justice Department has 3 percent. You’ve said 20. Does anybody know?

Mr. FOLEY. Well, the statistic I have is that a sex offender released from custody is four times more likely to be arrested for a sex offense crime than any other criminal infraction.

Mr. SCOTT. Okay. Of the children who are abused in America this year, how many of them will be abused by a person previously convicted of a child sex crime? Does anybody on the panel know?

Mr. POMEROY. Mr. Scott, the statistics I have are from an article entitled, ‘‘Recidivism of Sex Offenders Released From Prison in 1994.’’ This is a study of Bureau of Justice statistics: 9,691 male sex offenders. And again, it is the 1994 year. Some of these stats may be helpful to you. Released child molesters with more than one prior arrest for child molestation were more likely to be rearrested for the same crime——

Mr. SCOTT. Wait a minute. Of all of the children who are abused in America, what portion of them were abused by someone who had previously been convicted?

Mr. POMEROY. I do not have that figure.

Mr. SCOTT. Okay. If no one has the—if you don’t know, I mean, you don’t know. I mean, we just make up questions. It’s a simple question. Because if we’re trying to reduce child abuse, and a very small percentage are being abused by those convicted, then we’re missing most of the target, if our goal is to reduce child abuse.

My question was: Of all of those abused, how many of them were abused by someone convicted of a child sexual offense? And no one appears to know. Okay.

Now, we know we’re going to hear later this afternoon from experts who will tell us that rehabilitation programs will reduced the problem 50 percent. Any of the bills have any rehabilitation in them, since we know that works?

Mr. FOLEY. My bill does not. But I welcome that kind of insight because I truly believe that this is a serious issue that needs to be dealt with, not only with criminal penalties and ankle bracelets, but we’ve got to get to the root cause, which is mental illness and other things that cause someone to so aggressively go after a child.
Hopefully readers know the Mark Foley story, as all while these hearings were going on, he was sending sexually explicit e-mails to Congressional Pages, which would be a sex crime under the portion of this bill he wrote, but he was never prosecuted, instead left Congress in shame.
Mr. SCOTT. Okay. Now, Ms. Brown-Waite has given the cost estimates of the cost of her bill. Do others have the cost estimates for their bills?

Mr. POMEROY. I do not.

Mr. SCOTT. Okay. Okay, we do not. And finally, before my time expires, we have these reporting requirements in effect in, what, all 50 States now? All 50 States? Do we have any research showing the result of reducing child sexual abuse as a result of those initiatives?

Mr. FOLEY. Do we have empirical data, is that what you’re asking? I think, clearly, when you know where they are and you’re able to monitor them you have a better handle on their whereabouts and their presence. Some of the crimes we’ve seen committed are a result of their either not being on the registry, not having properly registered, not complying with probation.

Mr. POMEROY. Mr. Scott, I would add to that, these accounts carry reports of communities that are highly concerned upon learning that they have someone with a—has a conviction record relative to sex offenses moving into their community, and they are moved out of the community. So we don’t know whether that in the end prevents a crime, but we know they feel safer.

Mr. SCOTT. I know it’s an unfair question to ask, if there’s any research to suggest that any of these proposals will make a difference. I know that’s an unfair question.

Mr. FOLEY. Well, I think one of the things we want to do is, by having a conversation, a national conversation on the consequences of what people are doing, we hope it may stop them from acting.

The Virginia State Crime Commission today, which is just meeting, came up with a lot of problems in the registry there. They have 170 registered sex offenders who were discovered among the State prison population, even though the registry shows them as free and living in Virginia. We have a lot of problems, Mr. Scott, in Florida, in Virginia, in North Carolina.

Mr. SCOTT. Those are problems with the registry. My question was, has there been any study to show that the registry makes a difference in the number of children sexually abused in the State in which the registry is active?

Mr. POMEROY. I don’t have empirical data. You want empirical data——

Mr. SCOTT. Because you have, I’m sure, reports of child sexual abuse, and then you have the registry coming in, and then you have other reports of child sexual abuse. Did the registry make a difference?

Mr. POMEROY. I see——

Mr. SCOTT. And I know it’s an unfair question to ask, if there’s any evidence to show that these make a difference. I know it’s an unfair question.

Mr. POMEROY. Well, look, I think we don’t have to have empirical data to tell you it absolutely makes a difference to people concerned about the safety of their children, to be able to have access to information that there might be an elevated risk of a sexual offender down the street. They care deeply about that. They think that’s information they need to have to keep their——

Mr. COBLE. The gentleman’s time has expired. We could revisit this in second round, if we do that. We’ve got to get Mr. Poe out of here.


Mr.Green: Q&A Period
From here on I am going to post a few snip-its of interesting points which were discussed. The first one is likely the basis they used to enact the law, follow their logic closely, only then will you see why it is so compelling, even if you consider it erroneous. Rep Green (WI) is speaking pg-23):
Mr. GREEN. Oh, I think ‘‘cross-examination’’ is a pretty good term for what you were attempting.

Let me ask a similar question of at least a couple of the members of the panel. Now, I’m not going to ask you if you have absolute proof that these databases, that these registries would make a huge, marked difference in deterring such crime, but I’ll ask you something else.

And let me begin with Ms. Brown-Waite, if I can. Instead of giving us numbers and statistics on a national scale, perhaps you can tell us how your legislation would in fact have made a difference in the case of Jessica Lunsford. You can tell us with that.

Ms. BROWN-WAITE. Thank you. That’s an excellent question. Let me give you but one portion of the bill that certainly would have helped. Mr. Couey, the offender, the kidnapper/sexual predator, who also killed the young lady, was on probation. His probation officer was never told that he had a prior sexual offense. And he was working at the same school that Jessica went to. Had his probation officer known that, he never would have allowed him to work at a school. That’s one of the provisions that certainly would have been a preventative measure that would have kept Jessica, perhaps, alive today.

Mr. GREEN. So I guess what you’re saying is, while you don’t have broad studies that you can point to, to show how this would make a huge difference nationwide, if this had been the law, there is at least a good chance that Jessica Lunsford would be alive?

Ms. BROWN-WAITE. Absolutely, sir.
Notes: Other research has shown John Couey did work at the same school that Jessica Lundsford attended, BUT, not at the same time as she attended the school. Couey also had a rather long criminal record before his first sex offense, I doubt any probation officer would allow such a person to work in a school. Now, I can find nothing in the proposed bill, then, or today, that specifically informs probation officers in any way. And we know that, even when a person is properly registered (i.e., Garrido in California) its up to the skills of the probation officer to make valued decisions, a law would not change the facts cited by Ms.BROWN-WAITE. One facts that very well could have saved Jessica Lundsford is, John Couey, years before Jessic was killed, asked for help and for sex offender therapy, and was ignored by local police, and they released him after his time in jail.
Mr. GREEN. Well, it seems to me that that’s a pretty good purpose for legislation.

I turn now to my good friend, Mr. Pomeroy. I guess I’d ask you a similar question. With your legislation—obviously, so many of our bills—my own, as well—are driven by stories where a human face is put on a problem that all too often is reduced to numbers and anecdotes. Perhaps if you can talk a bit about your legislation and how that legislation, had it been in effect, would have made a difference in this case?

Mr. POMEROY. Sure. Three provisions in the law. First, the national publication of the registry. It is highly probable that there would have been an awareness that a dangerous individual, a person, Mr. Rodriguez, was in the vicinity; albeit on the Minnesota side.

Secondly, it’s highly possible that there might have been civil commitment proceedings brought, had the attorney general’s office only known that this dangerous sex offender, who had refused to participate in the prison programs, had been released. And so it’s quite possible he never would have been on the street. He would have been civilly committed.

Thirdly, with the extraordinary monitoring required under the bill, Mr. Rodriguez, assuming he’s convicted, would have had the pressure of very frequent, heavy monitoring. And that might have influenced his behavior in ways where he was not out there perpetrating.

Thank you.

Mr. GREEN. So again, Congressman Pomeroy, you’re not telling us that you have studies that can show how this law would dramatically change the overall crime rate, recidivism rate; but you are saying to us, at least in the case that we all know about and followed, quite frankly, from all parts of the country, this legislation would almost certainly have made a difference, and perhaps have prevented her untimely death?

Mr. POMEROY. Yes, I’m convinced it would have prevented her death.
Notes: Alfonso Rodriguez (of Minnestota) killed Dru Sjodin (of North Dakota). The story goes, one day Rodriguez drove across the ND/MN state line kidnapped Dru Sojdin, and brought her back into Minnesota, where he killed her and dumped her body in a field in Minnesota near where he lived with his mother. Now, it appears Mr. POMEROY. believes that, folks living near a state line will be able to know and remember, the names and pictures of sex offenders living just across the state line, from where they live which is provided by the then proposed National Registry. If they took the time, they could have done the same thing by looking at the registry of any nearby state. His first premise is erroneous. Secondly, Rodriguez was considered for civil commitment and deemed not to fit the Minnesota requirements. Pomeroy's second premise is erroneous. Finally, I think it a stretch to think any monitoring would have changed Rodriguez's actions, he was hell bent on committing that crime, look at what he went through to commit it (see link).
Mr. GREEN. Thanks. That’s all I have.

Above are the significant portions of this hearing transcript with my comments.
eAdvocate


Sex Offender Research, All Rights Reserved! © 2011



Endnotes:
DOCUMENT ENTITLED: "Case Study of Serial Killers and Rapists: 60 Violent Crimes Could Have Been Prevented Including 53 Murders and Rapes" is found on pages 37-56 of the hearing documentation. The essence of that supports, why DNA should be required of registrants. The document specifically chooses 60 cases, of which 30 have an included sex offense, all 60 cases were of people who were severe recidivists. It shows, if their DNA was obtained during their first conviction, that would have prevented all following convictions. Actually, that is a foolish thought, in no way does having one's DNA act as a preventative to further crimes, but thats the premise they used.

DOCUMENT ENTITLED "Highlights of the Foley Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act" is found on pages 57-58 of the Hearing documentation. It is important to note that, Foley wanted the U.S. Attorney General to poll states every three months, to learn the number of registrants, and publish that information to the public. We all know that never made it into the final legislation and the world accepts NCMEC figures as the truth; likely that is a mistake.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I see the name Jackson Lee. I believe I saw her name in something recent. I think it was a comment about how states need to pass SORNA quickly. Jackson Lee seems to have a personal interest in AWA/SORNA. Is it correct for - whatever title she has, aide, secretary for the Judiciary Committee to have such a slanted view?

Bennie said...

This part one of this congressional hearing the series of bills had no factual information but a lot of assumptions and presumptions.

Bottom-line we know that the final Adam Walsh Act was not just one bill but a piecemeal of several before reaching the signing by G.W. Bush.

As we can clearly see in the final Act it is not evidence based and was formulated on the premise of punishment and erroneous information that made no difference.

The Congress writes the final bill, gets it signed, and it is left up to the states and the states AG's, and the courts to figure out the constitutionality of the several parts of Title I.

Anonymous said...

These people were and are a freakin' train wreck. How in HELL could Couey's PO not have know he was a sex offender? Incompetent from the beginning to the end. Couey begged for treatment and was denied? All this crap only means something "after the fact" the correctr definition of prevention is not in their vocabulary. If it were they would have a clue. Sadly, they didn't then and don't now.