The three weeks since Ohio rushed to implement tougher sex offender registration laws have been filled with confusion, lawsuits, and concern that the measures may do more harm than good, reports the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Ohio is one of the first states to pass legislation to comply with the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, a federal law that stiffens registration requirements for convicted sex offenders. The act says that to get additional federal aid for anticrime programs, states must uniformly register sex offenders and place them into a national registry by 2009. It was billed as a way to prevent people who commit sex crimes from slipping through the cracks and committing more offenses. Being on the forefront of the movement has landed Ohio courts in the middle of arguments over retroactively classifying offenders – often with harsher penalties – without a court hearing.
It also has put a strain on sheriff’s offices, who could see a 60 percent increase in their workload as they scramble – with no extra money for personnel – to register thousands of new sex offenders who now must check in every 90 days. Child advocates are concerned about parts of the law requiring juveniles who committed sex crimes to register for life and, in some cases, have their pictures placed on the Internet. They say those measures negate the purpose of juvenile courts and ignore evidence that juvenile offenders have low recidivism rates — between 4 and 13 percent. Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann campaigned for the law, putting Ohio in line to get up to 10 percent more in federal grants used to fight crime. Opponents say the act will cost taxpayers far more to put into practice and defend in court.