Tuesday, February 25, 2014

PA - Overloaded, underfunded

Overloaded
Original Article

02/25/2014

In 1994, _____ strangled, sexually assaulted and repeatedly slammed a Montgomery County woman's head into a wall. He served 30 months in jail for his violent crime and was classified as a high-risk sex offender. As such, _____ was required, once released from prison, to regularly report his whereabouts to the state's sex offender registry, a requirement of Megan's Law.

It's good to know that between 96 and 97 percent of Megan's Law offenders comply with its requirements, as reported in our Sunday story. The flip side is that about 3.5 percent don't. That means of the current 15,802 offenders who are entered in the registry, 556 have fallen off the radar screen. In other words, nobody knows where they are. At least nobody in law enforcement.

This list includes _____.

What's worrisome is that more than a year lapsed before state officials asked local police in Tinicum, where _____ last reported residing, to verify that the violent ex-offender still lived there.

This gap between disappearance and detection speaks to flaws in a system that nonetheless is pretty effective. A 97 percent success rate is an A-plus by most anybody's measurement. Still, the system will have failed — utterly and tragically — anybody who might become a victim of one of those fugitive 556.

If you take time to dissect our comprehensive report, one thing is clear: The system is overloaded and undermanned. Indeed, a recent federal study suggests the expansion of offenses requiring registration under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) has grown the list of offenders beyond current capacity to track all who require tracking.

We're not legal experts, but we question why people convicted of "interfering with custody of a child" or "invasion of privacy" or several other offenses falling under the Tier 1 category of the law would require tracking as sex offenders. It's why Montgomery County state Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, R-12, who introduced the Megan's Law legislation in the Senate, voted against the SORNA expansion.

"Part of the problem is continuing to add people to the list. As a result," Greenleaf said, "we have created a bureaucracy that is not sustainable, and we're not supplying enough money."

Bucks County state Sen. Tommy Tomlinson, R-6, who introduced Megan's Law legislation in the state House when he was a member there, is less sure about causality but is certain lawmakers need to figure out how to fix the flaws, whatever they are. And he said he plans to start by requesting a report from state police on how the registry is working and how to improve it.

"These people need to be monitored all the time," he said. No argument there. Doubtless, getting the system to function at a 100 percent success rate is a very tough challenge. Failing to do so, however, merely invites tragedy.
- A vast majority of those on the registry DO NOT need 24/7 monitoring as you suggest!


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