Stricter rules for tracking sex offenders, Texas not quite ready

By Layron Livingston - bio | email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - bio | email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - It is supposed to help you keep better track of sex offenders in your neighborhood, but Texas is not ready for it. Three years ago, Congress passed the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, or SORNA. It mandated stricter rules for monitoring sex offenders. Every state was required, by law, to adopt the new standards back in July, but Texas has yet to do so.

It seems the Lone Star State is not alone. The U.S. Justice Department reports Ohio as the only state that's actually put SORNA in place, along with a group of Native American tribes in northeast Oregon.

"When adults commit sexual crimes with children, that behavior can be pretty durable...so it's important that we recognize that it takes an aggressive, intense approach to deal with those kinds of behaviors in order to keep kids safe," said Jason Isham with the Children's Advocacy Center of Smith County.

He says some of our own state rules surpass some SORNA requirements

"In Texas, we mostly impose lifetime registration on just about any adult who is convicted of a child related sex offense," said Isham.

Under SORNA, offenders would be required to register even more information, including where they go to school, work, DNA, palm prints, descriptions of their cars, and even temporary lodging info. Much of that information would then be open to the public on the registry database. Even email addresses and online screen names will have to be registered.

State Representative Leo Berman says current standards are fair. New ones can only be an improvement.

"We've got to do it," said Berman. "We've got to protect our children."

In March, DPS sent a letter to the Justice Department, asking for a one year extension. Our state database went through a major upgrade last August, allowing the department to register internet names, DNA, palm prints and other information.

That letter goes on to say that the public will able to search by zip code, radius, and school campus, and get updates on that info to make the Lone Star State, hopefully, stand-out.

States are allowed up to two, one-year extensions to become compliant. States that don't meet the new standards risk losing millions of dollars in federal funding.

Click here to read the National Guidelines for Sex Offender Registration and Notification.

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