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Texas At Odds With Gvt. Over Sex Offender Law

By Andrea Lucia, CBS 11 News
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Sex Offender Law

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AUSTIN (CBSDFW.COM) – Texas has just four months to comply with a federal law against sex offenders – or risk losing millions of dollars.  State lawmakers appear unlikely to meet that deadline, though, as opposition to the Adam Walsh Act increases.

Named after the son of “America’s Most Wanted” host, John Walsh, the law passed by Congress in 2006 created a national sex offender registry.  Five years later, though, Texas has yet to implement the changes it mandates.

“I think it’s ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous,” said Cherlyn Branch, the founder of Mothers Against Pedophiles.

Branch started her organization, after her young relative was sexually assaulted.  “I’m trying to get lawmakers to toughen the laws on sex crimes,” she said.

The Texas state senate’s criminal justice committee, however, doesn’t believe the Adam Walsh Act is the answer.  In a recent report, it recommended “not to implement AWA.”

“It doesn’t help. It would not help if it were in place,” says Phil Taylor, a sex offender treatment provider in Dallas.  Taylor testified before the senate committee, arguing the national registry is too sweeping.

“The Adam Walsh Act would register everyone. And, someone as young as 14 could find themselves on the registry for life,” said Taylor.

The law would also determine a sex offender’s risk level by looking at the charge they’ve been convicted of.
Currently, Texas considers offenders’ risk on a case by case basis, taking into consideration their relationship to the victim and the circumstances of the crime.

The AWA would require more juveniles to be included in the registry and force some offenders to register as often as four times a year.

Critics worry local police departments could be swamped, as a result.  Already, the state has about 64,000 registered sex offenders.

At the Dallas police department, ten officers work full-time to monitor them.  Even some victims’ advocates agree, the idea is flawed.

“The intent of the law is good, but when you really get into the meat of it… maybe not,” said Janna Barker, executive director of the Dallas Area Rape Crisis Center.

In the end, the state’s decision may come down to money.  If lawmakers fails to comply, they risk losing around two million dollars in federal funds.  Implementing the changes, though, would cost much more – nearly $39 million.

Texas isn’t the only state opposed to the Adam Walsh Act  So far, only four states have complied.

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