Senate Passes Grassley’s Bill to Track Sex Offenders, Protect Rights of Assault Victims
WASHINGTON – The Senate today passed legislation championed by Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley to keep communities informed of the whereabouts of convicted sex offenders and to expand and protect the rights of sex assault victims. The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act Reauthorization passed the Senate by a vote of 89-0.
“Too many kids are falling prey to sexual predators. The names Johnny Gosch, Eugene Martin and Jetseta Gage bring heartbreak to Iowans. And too many people have had to cope with the physical and emotional trauma of a sexual assault. I introduced this legislation to help prevent future tragedies and ensure that victims have a good shot at justice. Today’s vote in the Senate reaffirms our commitment to protecting the rights of those who have experienced a sexual assault while helping communities across America work together to guard against future atrocities,” Grassley said.
The original Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, which passed in 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. The bill’s funding authorization expired several years ago
Grassley’s bill that was approved in the Senate today 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 extends the Jessica Lunsford Address Verification Grant Program, which makes available federal grants to states and localities to periodically verify the home addresses of registered sex offenders. Finally, the bill 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.
Grassley’s bill also established new rights for victims of sexual assault and human trafficking offenses. These provisions ensure that victims of federal crimes of sexual violence cannot be denied or charged for forensic exams, and that sexual assault evidence collection kits must be preserved without charge for the statutory limitation period or at least 20 years. It would authorize Justice Department grants to states that ensure that sexual violence survivors are notified of any applicable legal rights. It also calls for the creation of a federal working group to develop best practices relating to the care and treatment of sexual assault survivors as well as the preservation of forensic evidence in sexual violence cases. Finally, the Grassley amendment, which was developed with the input of victim advocates and other senators, would extend the statutory deadline by which many child survivors of human trafficking offenses can file civil lawsuits against their perpetrators.
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, collaborated with Congress to develop the 2006 law and this reauthorization bill. Cosponsors of Grassley’s bill include senators Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Christopher Coons (D-Del.), among others. The bill is also supported by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Rise, Shared Hope International, and Polaris.
The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act Reauthorization is the 17th bill reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee and passed in the Senate under Grassley’s leadership, all of which have enjoyed bipartisan support.
Photos of Grassley with Adam Walsh’s brother, Cal Walsh, and Amanda Nguyen, a rape survivor and president of Rise, are available HERE.
Text of the bill is available HERE.
Below are Grassley’s remarks today on the Senate floor:
Prepared Senate Floor Statement by Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee
On the Adam Walsh Reauthorization Act of 2016
Monday, May 23, 2016
Mr. President, today we’ll vote on The Adam Walsh Reauthorization Act of 2016. Passage of this bipartisan bill will send a strong and clear message to the American people about Congress’ steadfast commitment to keeping our children safe from sexual predators and other violent criminals
Many of us supported the original Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, which is so named for a six-year old boy who was abducted and tragically murdered nearly 35 years ago. Adam Walsh was abducted on July 27, 1981 from a mall in Hollywood, Florida. In what is every parent’s nightmare, Adam’s remains were found two weeks later, more than a hundred miles from his home.
This year marks the 35th anniversary of his disappearance. In the intervening years, his parents, John and Reve Walsh, have dedicated their lives to protecting children from harm and bringing child predators to justice. John Walsh collaborated on the development of the original Adam Walsh Act, and he has continued to provide invaluable insight regarding the reauthorization bill that is before us today.
This bill is yet another bipartisan measure that the Senate Judiciary Committee reported unanimously in the 114th Congress. Senators Hatch, Schumer, and Feinstein, who all cosponsored an early Senate version of the 2006 Adam Walsh Act, have once again joined as original cosponsors of this legislation. I want to also thank our Committee’s Ranking Member, Senator Leahy, as well as Senator Ayotte and other members of this chamber who have joined as cosponsors or contributed in some way to the bill’s success.
As a reminder, the Adam Walsh Act originally was enacted in response to notorious cases involving children who had been targeted by adult criminals, many of them repeat sex offenders. The names Johnny Gosch, Eugene Martin and Jetseta Gage, for example, still bring heartbreak to all Iowans. Johnny Gosch was a twelve year-old paperboy delivering newspapers in West Des Moines, Iowa, when he disappeared in 1982. Two years later, thirteen year-old Eugene Martin, disappeared in Des Moines, Iowa—also while delivering newspapers. And ten year-old Jetseta Gage, was kidnapped, raped and murdered by a convicted sex offender in rural Johnson County, Iowa in 2005.
The original Adam Walsh Act was enacted in response to these and many other cases involving missing children. The 2006 law established numerous programs, but their authorization expired some years ago. Several of these programs, for which Congress continues to provide funding in the annual appropriations process, are the centerpiece of the Adam Walsh Act and are key to its successful implementation. This bill would extend the authorization for these pivotal programs.
First, this bill would reauthorize the Sex Offender Management Assistance Program. It’s estimated that there are more than 700,000 registered sex offenders in the United States. This program helps states to meet national notification and registration standards for these sex offenders. It also helps state and local law enforcement agencies improve their sex offender registry systems and information sharing capabilities.
Second, this bill would extend the Jessica Lunsford Address Verification Grant Program. Who can forget Jessica Lunsford, for whom this program is named? This nine year old Florida girl was abducted and murdered by a registered sex offender who lived nearby. Her story is not unlike that of Jetseta Gage.
The Jessica Lunsford Program authorizes grants to state and local governments to help fund programs that verify the residences of registered sex offenders. Having accurate information on where sex offenders live is crucial to ensuring that law enforcement can adequately protect the safety of children and keep the public informed.
Third, this bill authorizes continued funding for the U.S. Marshals Service to support local efforts to track down sex offenders who fail to register as such or who later disappear from the system. These fugitive apprehension activities, authorized under the original Adam Walsh Act, continue to be funded by appropriators but they need to be reauthorized. Extending the authorization signals Congress’ continued commitment to ensuring that these activities continue.
Fourth, during the committee markup of this bill, I offered a substitute amendment that incorporates a package of new rights for sexual assault survivors. It was accepted with the unanimous support of our Committee members. Several members worked with me on its development, and I appreciate their contributions. I want to especially thank Ms. Amanda Nguyen, a young woman who has bravely spoken out about her experience of sexual assault. Amanda, who founded a nonprofit known as Rise, originated the idea for a survivors’ rights package and urged me to incorporate such language in this bill.
The package we adopted in the Judiciary Committee includes new rights, under our federal criminal code, for victims of sexual assault offenses.
These rights are in addition to those already available to all victims of crime under the federal criminal code. They include the right not to be prevented from, or charged for, receiving a medical forensic exam. They include the right to have a sexual assault evidence collection kit preserved without charge for the statutory limitations period or 20 years. They include the right to be informed of the results of that kit’s analysis as well as policies governing the kit’s collection and preservation. They include the right to notice when the government intends to dispose of a sexual assault evidence collection kit. Rise endorsed these provisions last July.
The bill reported by our Committee also clarifies that the Justice Department can make discretionary grants available, under the Crime Victims Fund, to states that agree to notify sexual assault survivors of any applicable rights under state law. The bill calls for the establishment of a federal working group to disseminate best practices for the care and treatment of sexual assault survivors and for the preservation of forensic evidence. The bill also would extend the statutory deadline by which child victims of certain human trafficking and child abuse offenses can file suit against their perpetrators.
We also added language to the bill, at the suggestion of the United States Judicial Conference, to clarify that courts can supervise sexual offenders after their release from civil confinement. Courts already do this in practice, just as they do with criminal offenders after their release, but this legislation clarifies judges’ authority to do so.
Before concluding, I should mention that the Adam Walsh Reauthorization Act not only has the bipartisan support of members of this chamber, but also has the support of groups that advocate for child protection and safety, such as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
It has been endorsed by two leading anti-human trafficking organizations, Polaris and Shared Hope International. And as already mentioned, the current version has the support of John Walsh and Rise.
Finally, I want to reiterate that the 35th anniversary of the abduction of and murder of young Adam Walsh will take place in July. It is my hope that we can send this legislation to the President’s desk before that date elapses. As a father, as a grandfather, I cannot stress enough the importance of making this bill’s passage a priority for the 114th Congress.
We cannot bring back Adam Walsh, Jetseta Gage, Jessica Lunsford, or the other innocent children we have lost under such terrible circumstances. But we can do our best to honor their memory and to protect America’s present and future children by extending these key programs that were authorized under the original Adam Walsh Act.
I yield the floor.