Washington, D.C. – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) today delivered the following remarks during the House Judiciary Committee’s markup of the Adam Walsh Reauthorization Act of 2017 (H.R. 1188).
Chairman Goodlatte: It has been over a decade since President George W. Bush signed into law the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act. The Walsh Act was a monumental bill, changing how this nation addresses registering, monitoring, and apprehending sex offenders. Research shows that sexual crimes reported to police decline by an average of 13% within a jurisdiction after enacting a registry. What cannot be quantified, however, is the prevented harm, or the damage to our children that has been averted thanks to the presence of a sex offender registry. Prevention is key, and that is precisely the goal of the Adam Walsh Act. We must never take that for granted.
That is why today we will consider the Adam Walsh Reauthorization Act of 2017, introduced by Congressman Sensenbrenner, the author of the original Walsh Act. This bill reauthorizes the Sex Offender Management Assistance Program, and provides funding for the United States Marshals Service, which is tasked with identifying and apprehending unregistered sex offenders. Additionally, the bill expands the time in which a victim of child exploitation or trafficking may pursue a civil remedy.
The bill also aims to improve the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, or SORNA, and make it easier for states to comply. Thus far 17 states, 108 tribes, and 3 territories are in substantial compliance with the law. The intent of this bill is to ensure many more jurisdictions come into compliance. Over the past several years, DOJ has worked closely with states to achieve this goal, by promulgating flexible guidelines and via the continued hard work of the Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking, or the “SMART” office.
The bill takes several concrete steps to encourage compliance. For example, it addresses concerns many have expressed about juvenile offenders. It is important to keep in mind that only juveniles who have committed the most serious sex offenses, such as first degree rape, are subject to registration under SORNA. Nevertheless, HR 1188 lessens the amount of time a juvenile who keeps a clean record must be on the registry. If these youths keep a clean record for 15 years, they may petition to leave the registry. Additionally, under the DOJ guidelines, states who choose to do so may forego putting certain juveniles on the public registry.
Further, the bill alleviates the costs of implementation by explicitly permitting alternative means for in-person check-ins for registrants, and lessening the number of required check-ins. This is a reasonable amendment that will help states with significant rural populations achieve compliance.
Last year, the Adam Walsh Reauthorization Act passed the Senate by a unanimous, bipartisan vote of 89-0. Notably, our bill here today goes further than the Senate bill did, by including specific provisions to encourage further implementation of the Act.
As we heard at last week’s hearing: There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children. I implore my colleagues to take that to heart and support H.R. 1188 to reauthorize the Adam Walsh Act.