The Adam Walsh Law: Why We Need It, What It Does
President Bush signs the Adam Walsh Act into law on July 27, 2006.
America's Most Wanted understands that there are concerns about the lack of consistency and uniformity in the way that states deal with sex offenders and which offenses may or may not be included in sex offender registries. AMW also understands that there will on occasion be instances in which relatively minor offenses are treated harshly and inconsistently. In fact, that was a prime reason for the Adam Walsh Act.
Sex offender registries are not new. The first registry in the country was the California registry, established in the 1940s. Yet, we had reached a situation in which at least 100,000 of the nation's more than 600,000 convicted, registered sex offenders were not complying with the law. Many were literally missing. We were witnessing tragic incidents like the Jessica Lunsford case in which registered offenders with many prior arrests weren't where they were supposed to be, and were preying upon the innocent.
We want people to understand how this important law is supposed to help protect children. The Adam Walsh Act is a federal law that is actually made up of individual state laws. Each state has its own sex offender registry and its own laws about how the registry works and what offenders must do to comply with their registration duties. The Adam Walsh Act provides a framework for the states. It is a floor, not a ceiling, and states are permitted to enact registration laws that go beyond the minimum standards of the federal law. While we believe that most registered sex offenders want to, and in fact do, comply with their registration duties, the laws are directed at those offenders who don't register because many seek anonymity and pose the greatest threat to children.
The single most important thing that must happen is that every state should implement the Adam Walsh Act immediately.
Building A National Standard
In working with Congress on the Adam Walsh Act, our goal was a more unified system of sex offender management throughout the nation. Certain states should not be allowed to become "safe harbors" for sex offenders. We believe that communities in each state should be able to have the same type of information about potential threats to their children. The Adam Walsh Act will ensure this consistency.
The intent of the Adam Walsh Act is simply to protect our children from predators. It is a vast improvement over the current patchwork of registries across the nation, a system filled with holes and gaps. We recognize that it may not address every situation relating to specific offenders and like any law, could have unintended consequences.
If there are problems with implementation of the Adam Walsh Act at the state and local level, we urge state lawmakers to take a close look at whether their state laws are inadvertently creating situations that do not further the goal of protecting children.
Nonetheless, we remain convinced that the single most important thing that must happen is that every state should implement the Adam Walsh Act immediately. States have three years to implement its provisions. In addition, Congress and the President must provide the funding authorized under the Act to enhance the ability of federal and state authorities to manage our growing population of sex offenders. We are committed to full, fair and uniform compliance across the country and will continue to work to ensure that it happens. Our children deserve nothing less.