California is sticking with its own first-in-the-nation sex offender registry instead of complying with a 2006 federal law that sought to create a seamless 50-state tracking program.
The state Department of Justice says state legislators made no attempt to meet the federal standards set by the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act despite the threat of a loss in federal grant money.
Experts questioned the value of the federal law and said California’s cost of complying would far exceed the lost federal funding.
State justice officials said California stands to lose nearly $800,000 this year. The grant money previously had been used for drug enforcement but would have been diverted to sex offender management, registration and victim notification programs under the federal law. Only the state’s portion of the grant will be lost, the department said; grants to local law enforcement are unaffected.
The California Sex Offender Management Board, which advises the governor and Legislature, estimated in 2008 that it would cost the state at least $32 million to comply with the federal law, not including the cost of incarcerating offenders who failed to comply with the new federal registration regulations.
The bulk of the cost, about $25 million, would have been for local law enforcement agencies to assess and more frequently re-assess offenders’ risk of committing new crimes to meet the federal requirements, the board projected.
The board, made up of law enforcement and treatment experts, also said California’s registration system was superior to that required by the federal law.
The federal law requires that an offender’s perceived risk of committing a new crime be based solely on his or her previous crime, while California relies on a range of indicators. They include the offender’s criminal history, age at the time of the offense and the type of victim.
The board said the federal requirement “is far less reliable” than California’s method.
The federal law also would require California to begin publicly naming many juvenile sex offenders on its Megan’s Law website, which the state board said was counterproductive. It also would have had to add several additional crimes to the list of those requiring criminals to register as sex offenders.
“California should absorb the comparatively small loss of federal funds that would result from not accepting the very costly and ill-advised changes to state law and policy required by the (federal) Act,” the board said in its 2008 report. ..Source..