Sex Offender Law Change Avoided Loss of $5M in Federal Funds

The TBI estimates Tennessee stood to lose about $5 million in federal funding had the legislature not changed the state’s sex offender laws to meet requirements of the Adam Walsh Act, according to The Tennessean..
Part of those requirements included scanning all sex offender records into computers and a requirement that juvenile sex offenders aged 14 to 17 be included in the state’s sex offender registry. Youth advocates opposed putting juveniles on the registry, but the state was able to work out a compromise: Juvenile sex offenders will be added to a special private registry available only to law enforcement agencies.
Linda O’Neal, executive director of the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, said sex-offending teens are less likely to commit new crimes but very likely to be harmed by the notoriety of having their picture and personal information posted on the sex offender registry.
“If children get intervention and treatment, they really do not only have the opportunity, but do in fact turn their lives around,” O’Neal said. “If you are on a public registry, it felt like you were sentencing them to a life of crime or being marginalized.”
Pam Beck, a TBI staff attorney who advises the state’s sex offender registry, said they were told by the Justice Department that without a juvenile component on the registry, the state would not be in compliance with federal law and jeopardize federal funding.
Scanning records has proved more time consuming. The state estimates it is about three-quarters done with the job but won’t finish until the fall. Costs for the project were largely picked up by the federal government, courtesy of a $260,000 grant.

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