State eNews Issue #42 | March 17, 2010
 

A registered sex offender was arrested and charged with the rape and murder of San Diego high school student Chelsea King March 1. John Gardner had previously served just five years in prison for committing lewd and lascivious acts on a 13-year-old, despite the recommendations by a court psychiatrist that he serve a much longer sentence because he presented a continued danger to underage girls in the community.

Despite numerous efforts at all levels of government, policymakers continue to struggle to identify and implement effective policies and programs that address the myriad issues related to sexual offenders and their crimes. Complex issues around sentencing, community supervision and re-entry of sexual offenders into the community remain critical challenges for state lawmakers.

Common myths about sex offenders continue to influence public policy. States are working to balance tougher laws and public fears with effective policy to ensure community safety.

In response to the tragic death of a child in foster care in Wisconsin, the state has moved aggressively to improve it's child-welfare system.   The state has also targeted fraud in its state-financed childcare system.

The Adam Walsh Act sets a minimum national standard for state sex offender registries and  notification laws and has the potential to overhaul sex offender laws across the nation. The act, which is divided into seven titles, calls for a more detailed, uniform and nationalized system of sex offender registries; addresses issues of child pornography, Internet safety and civil commitment; creates grants for electronic monitoring; and revises the Immigration and Nationality Act to address immigrants who are sex offenders.

In the 2007–2008 legislative biennium, state legislatures considered at least 1,500 bills related to sex offenders; at least 275 of those bills became law. Six states—Arkansas, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Nevada and Texas—did not hold a regular legislative session in 2008.

Suggested State Legislation: The Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act (UCAPA) provides states with a valuable tool for deterring both domestic and international child abductions by parents and people acting on behalf of the parents. The UCAPA complements and strengthens the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), which is law in 48 states, and the federal Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (PKPA). The Act allows the court to impose measures designed to prevent child abduction both before and after a court has entered a custody decree.