More than two dozen states have added a wide range of new services and new categories of information to their online registries of convicted molesters, reports Stateline.org. All 50 states have publicly searchable sex offender registries, which are accessible through a national database kept by the U.S. Justice Department, a Web site that averages 2.3 million page views a day. The new features come as states approach a July deadline to comply with the Adam Walsh Act, a 2006 federal law intended to crack down on the estimated 674,000 registered sex offenders in the United States. The law was named after the murdered 6-year-old son of “America's Most Wanted” host John Walsh.
The Adam Walsh Act requires all states to adopt the same minimum standards for registering and tracking sex offenders, including the information they post online. Under the law, states must include where sex offenders work and go to school, the cars they drive, the aliases they use, the crimes they have committed and more. Many state lawmakers, corrections officials, and advocacy organizations have criticized the law, questioning its costs, demands and whether aspects of it do more harm than good. The posting of new information about sex offenders also has drawn criticism. Internet forums have buzzed as visitors voice frustration over the trove of details now available to anyone at the click of a mouse. States are under pressure to comply with the Adam Walsh Act by July – or lose 10 percent of their share of funding under a federal grant program that pays for state and local police programs. No states have been deemed compliant with the law, though they can apply for a pair of one-year extensions. Battles over the Adam Walsh Act and similar state laws are playing out in state and federal courts around the country. Most cases focus on whether the act's requirements can be applied retroactively to those who committed crimes before such laws were approved.