WASHINGTON – Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley today introduced legislation to assist states in preventing future abuses by registered sex offenders. The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act Reauthorization helps to improve tracking of sex offenders through federal support of state registries and dedicated resources to target offenders who fail to comply with registration requirements.
“Preventing sex crimes, especially by known offenders, requires a team effort by law enforcement at every level. Congress has passed laws to promote a unified approach to sex offender registration and notification. This bill will help to ensure that our state and local law enforcement officials continue to have the federal resources and assistance they need to successfully track offenders with a history of crimes against children,” Grassley said.
The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 established nationwide notification and registration standards for convicted sex offenders to bolster information sharing between law enforcement agencies and increase public safety through greater awareness. Grassley’s bill reauthorizes key programs in the 2006 act to help states meet the national standards and locate offenders who fail to properly register or periodically update their information as the law requires.
Specifically, Grassley’s bill reauthorizes the Sex Offender Management Assistance Program, a federal grant program that assists state and local law enforcement agencies in their efforts to improve sex offender registry systems and information sharing capabilities. The bill also authorizes resources for the U.S. Marshals Service to aid state and local law enforcement in the location and apprehension of sex offenders who fail to comply with registration requirements.
The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act is named for a six-year-old Florida boy who was kidnapped and murdered in 1981. Adam’s father, John Walsh, worked closely with Congress to develop the 2006 law and the reauthorization that was introduced today. Cosponsors of the bill include senators Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).
Grassley’s statement for the Congressional Record regarding the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act Reauthorization is posted below. Legislative text is available HERE.
Prepared Statement by Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee
In the Congressional Record
“Introduction of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act Reauthorization”
March 1, 2016
Mr. President, we’ve all heard accounts of innocent children being victimized and abused by predators. Today I will introduce legislation to extend two of the key programs that Congress established under the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006. With today’s legislation, I hope to send a strong message to all Americans about Congress’ continued commitment to keeping our nation’s children safe.
Many of us here in the Senate worked very hard on the original version of the Adam Walsh Act, which is named for a six year-old who was tragically murdered in 1981. President George W. Bush signed that legislation on the 25th anniversary of Adam Walsh’s abduction from a Florida shopping mall. I am pleased that Senators Hatch, Schumer, and Feinstein—who cosponsored the Senate version of that legislation when it was first introduced in the 109th Congress—have joined me as original cosponsors of today’s legislation.
John Walsh, the father of Adam Walsh, worked closely with us on the development of the 2006 Adam Walsh Act, and we worked with him on the development of today’s legislation as well. Reauthorization of the Adam Walsh Act is a priority for him and has the support of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
The Adam Walsh Act was enacted in response to multiple, notorious cases involving children who had been targeted by adult criminals, many of them repeat sex offenders. Its passage became a national priority after Congress discovered that criminals were taking advantage of gaps and loopholes in some states’ laws to circumvent sex offender registration requirements--with tragic results for some of the nation’s children.
Who can forget Jetseta Gage--a beautiful 10 year-old girl from Cedar Rapids, Iowa who was sexually assaulted and murdered by a registered sex offender in 2005? As a cosponsor of the Senate version of the Adam Walsh Act, I championed the inclusion in the 2006 law of language imposing mandatory minimum penalties for those who murder, kidnap, or inflict serious bodily harm to children like Jetseta.
Of course, the centerpiece of the Adam Walsh Act is the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, or SORNA. SORNA divides sex offenders into three categories, or tiers, depending on the seriousness of their crimes. It encourages states to set minimum criteria for the registration of sex offenders in each tier, with the aim of discouraging “forum shopping” by offenders who prey on children.
The Adam Walsh Act also established several programs that are key to its successful implementation. One such program, known as SOMA, or the Sex Offender Management Assistance Program, makes federal grant resources available to states to offset the costs of Walsh Act implementation. Today’s legislation would extend the authorization for that program, which expired eight years ago.
The federal government, through the U.S. Marshals Service, also supports states and localities in tracking down sex offenders who fail to register or re-register. Those fugitive apprehension activities were authorized under the 2006 Adam Walsh Act, and today’s legislation would extend the authorization for those U.S. Marshals Service activities at $60 million annually for each of the next two years.
Nothing can bring back Adam Walsh, Jetseta Gage, Dru Sjodin, Megan Kanka, or the other innocents for whom the Adam Walsh Act was passed. But it is important that we continue to not only honor their memories but also protect America’s future children from harm by extending the key programs that were authorized under the original Adam Walsh Act. The authorization for these programs expired at least seven years ago.
According to the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, there are about a hundred thousand people convicted of sexual violence offenses in state prisons, and hundreds of thousands more who currently reside in neighborhoods across the United States. As a father of five and the grandfather of nine, I believe we should continue to make sex offender registration and notification a priority.
Mr. President, July 27th of this year will mark the 35th anniversary of Adam Walsh’s abduction. I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting the passage of this important legislation before that date elapses.