By Abby Rogers
Despite all of the work done last session to update Maryland’s sex offender registry, the state still isn’t meeting all of the federal standards and may lose some federal funds, a Senate committee was told Tuesday.
The state is over and above federal standards with some of its sex offender registry standards — such as the physical description, address, employment, and vehicle information of offenders — David Wolinski of the state’s Criminal Justice Information System told the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. But it falls short on registering juveniles.
The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 mandates juvenile offenders aged 14 years or older be listed for their lifetimes. This can be downgraded to 25 years in some circumstances.
“They didn’t find us substantially in compliance in the one item, and that single item only,” Wolinski told the committee.
If Maryland is not compliant with this part of federal law by June 30 of this year, the state will lose 10% of its Byrne grant funding in the next fiscal year, which translates to about $2 million. The federal grant funds various law enforcement programs.
No bill has been proposed yet to correct the situation. Legislative analysts for the department have not put one forward because they did not know they were out of compliance until after submitting the legislative agenda to Gov. Martin O’Malley.
“We did everything we can,” Wolinski said.
There was also some discussion at the meeting about how to describe an offender’s crimes on the Department of Public Safety’s website. Wolinski said the department is working on creating a plain-language list of crimes to put on the site.
Democrat Sen. James Brochin of Baltimore County said he could not understand what the department needs to “figure out.”
“If they’ve been convicted and it’s consistent with the statement of charges, why can’t you just put the statement of charges there of what they’ve been convicted of?” he asked.
Wolinski said it isn’t quite that simple. He has to consult with attorneys and victims’ advocates, among others. Plus, there are about 60 to 70 people entering sex offender registrations into the system, and not all of them have a uniform method of capturing charge information that would be both informative and sensitive to the victim.
People who live next door to sex offenders want to know what they did because they have children, Brochin countered.