The Adam Walsh Act, named after the killed son of America’s Most Wanted host John Walsh, puts some significant burdens on states in an effort to streamline the tracking of sexual offenders and solve outstanding offenses. But many states are opting to lose federal funding rather than take on the new rules, stating the law doesn’t improve upon systems already in place.
According to the Wall Street Journal this week, only four states have complied to the strict standards of the new law. The remaining states have until July 27 to make significant changes or lose federal funding. Many of those remaining have legislation pending that would get them into compliance, though some are choosing to not participate.
In Texas, where there is an anticipated $27 billion budget deficit in the next two years, lawmakers would rather see federal funding fall by the wayside than take on the new law that they say would cost $38.8 million. By contrast, the federal funding they would lose by not complying is about $1.4 million.
The executive director of the Texas Council on Sex Offender Treatment states the new law and regulations would not make the general public any more safe and that the act “contradicts what our research over 30 years indicates.”
Other opponents of the measure are worried that the federal law would include the monitoring of juveniles and some who are considered “low risk” for reoffending. States like Arizona which uses a ranking system to determine who is more likely to reoffend and therefore should be monitored more closely, would have to change this highly specialized approach to a method prescribed by the Adam Walsh Act, one they are concerned is less effective than the approach in place.
Supporters, mostly the federal government, state that the costs to implement the program are overstated, pointing to Ohio who initially estimated the cost to be $18 million but found it only to cost $400,000.
They also state the Act has done well in catching sex offender fugitives who cross state lines. The U.S. Marshalls estimate they have made 1,000 arrests thanks to the new federal law.
It seems the problem comes in when states who believe their own methods are superior to those suggested by the Adam Walsh Act are essentially forced into making changes that would cost money and even perhaps weaken their sex offender enforcement programs already in place.
While a streamlined tracking process would be good, there are indications the federal law isn’t without problems, problems many of these states aren’t willing to take on.