January 2, 2013

Pennsylvania ups the ante on sexual offender registration

1-3-2013 Pennsylvania:

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.

Enacted in 2006, 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.

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 ...continued... by steve mcconnell (staff writer)

No comments: