State budgets vs. Walsh Act

In the midst of a national economic struggle, has it become economy versus safety? Do our financial woes warrant the lack of implementing a system that would keep the public safe from sexual predators?

Seeing budgets slashed, stores closing down and people tightening their belts everywhere, it is not difficult to picture our state budget feeling the same economic pinch.

The situation has almost reached desperate levels, with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announcing the possibility of cutting 20,000 state jobs if the budget is not balanced soon.

Evidently, right now is definitely not the time to add more expenses to the state’s already increasing bills.

The hefty price tag attached to complying with the law’s requirements is the primary reason why different parties are arguing for the postponement of the set July deadline for, or even complete elimination of, the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, a national system for keeping track of sexual offenders.

However, despite financial constraints, it is not reasonable to completely disregard the implementation of a federal law that would make children, as well as other vulnerable parties, safer from sexual predators. It is less so, when the option for delaying the deadline remains.

The Walsh Act would create a nationalized system to register sex offenders that would clarify their classification by the gravity of crimes and have them appear in person up to four times a year to verify their registered information, as well as provide an updated photograph that would be placed on a database accessible on the internet. It would most importantly create uniform databases where information on the location of convicted offenders could be easily shared between agencies and state governments.

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, “there are more than 563,000 sex offenders that are ‘supposed’ to be registered in the United States and at least 100,000 of these offenders are actually ‘missing’ from the system.”

With the Walsh Act in place, whenever a sex offender changes information in their registry, all other locations where the offender is required to register will be immediately notified, and in failure to do so, the offender would be charged with at least a year of imprisonment.

It is irresponsible to say that our current state laws work relatively well, even when facing economic constraints, especially when considering the benefits of being able to share sex offenders’ files nationwide.

If the requirements of this law had already been active, perhaps people like Gariner Beasley, a sex offender convicted of raping two women in the ’90s, would not have slipped through the state’s cracks and would not have been allowed to work unsupervised with women at a Los Angeles health clinic.

Although an overhaul of this government system is not financially viable with the current economic situation, the state government would not be measuring up to their responsibility to protect the public, if measures are not slowly taken to meet the requirements of the Walsh Act.

Yes, Schwarzenegger and his people in Sacramento have difficult weeks ahead dealing with the budget crisis, but it is still essential to the safety of many, that an important measure like the Walsh Act is not placed on the backburner of the state’s priorities.

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