By STEVE MCCONNELL
Stricter measures targeting sexual offenders in Pennsylvania recently went into effect as part of a final push to comply with a federal law named in memory of Adam Walsh, a murdered 6-year-old boy whose father became a fierce advocate for child abuse prevention laws.
In late December, Pennsylvania became one of several states to adhere to the requirements of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, federal legislation named after the son of "America's Most Wanted" host John Walsh.
- It has never been proven who did the crime or if sexual assault was even involved. So why are they punishing all ex-sex offenders and not everybody who harms children? Do we punish all people who run stop signs for what some murderer did? No, of course not, so why are we punishing ex-sex offenders for the MURDER of a child?
Enacted in 2006 (Video), the legislation built upon previous federal laws that mainly required convicted sex offenders to register their personal information in publicly accessible state databases tracking their whereabouts so that communities can feel safer knowing who they are and where they live.
- Exactly, it punishes ex-sex offenders, who had nothing to do with Adam's death. That is like punishing all DUI offenders for what Charles Mansion did, or brainwashed people to do. If they wanted to "protect" children from all abuse, then all people who abused children would be required to report where they live and all their personal info on the online shaming hit-list, and the registry would not be called the "sex offender" registry, but the "child abuse" registry. So it's apparently not to "protect" children from abuse, but to punish ex-sex offenders, the scapegoats for all crimes involving children!
The Adam Walsh Act took further steps to eliminate a patchwork of state sex offender registration laws - commonly known as Megan's laws - to establish baseline requirements.
In Pennsylvania, state and local officials had been working to comply with the law by Dec. 20. They say they've met the deadline.
"It's a huge change, and it's definitely having a lot of impact," said state police Cpl. Steve Vesnaver of the agency's Megan's Law division.
Among the changes, convicted sex offenders must register immediately after they are sentenced by a judge. Before, they registered after fully serving out their sentence or after they were released from prison.
In Lackawanna County, convicted sexual offenders will be registered within 48 hours of sentencing at the county courthouse in Scranton, Assistant District Attorney Patricia Lafferty said.
"It's just to make sure everybody gets right into the system," she said.
In the county, four registration sites are now ready to go, including at the state police barracks in Dunmore and the Scranton Police Department, Ms. Lafferty said, which have been loaded with new software to better link with the national sex offender database maintained by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Also, offenders classified as the most sexually violent must stop by a law enforcement agency four times a year to check in and confirm their information - such as most recent address, and their photo - is up-to-date.
Of the roughly 12,200 sexual offenders currently registered in the state's database, about 85 percent will have to fulfill that requirement, Cpl. Vesnaver said.
Before, sexual offenders in that category reported once a year, although they always had to quickly provide changes to their personal information under previous laws.
The new provisions of the law also require sexual offenders to provide more information about their personal life than before, including the address of where they work and the make and model of any vehicle they drive.
Officials hope the tougher reporting measures prevent the database from being riddled with outdated information, in effect defeating its purpose. Failure to register is a felony offense.
Lastly, the changes require sexual offenders to be registered for longer periods of time, depending on the severity of the crime.