Nationwide, more than 700,000 convicted sex offenders have registered their whereabouts with local police, says National Public Radio. Every state has a sex offender registry of some kind. As many states face persistent budget shortfalls, it’s become a real question how well law enforcement can keep track of such a large caseload. “Sometimes federal mandates and state laws get passed without a real sense of what the lingering costs are,” says Suzanne Brown-McBride of the Council of State Governments Justice Center.
Last month, the Justice Department proposed significant changes to the registration requirements states must meet under the Adam Walsh Act, a 2006 law that was meant to ensure that offender registries across the country adhere to similar standards. Only three states – Ohio, Delaware, and Florida – are in compliance. Many of the rest say it imposes costs that are too high for them to bear. “It’s the worst it’s ever been because of the economic crisis,” says Ernie Allen of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, which estimates 100,000 sex offenders are not even currently registered with states. “Our argument lies not in throwing up your hands and saying we can’t do this. The answer lies in triage – deciding who represents the greatest risk.”