SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
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HOUSE BILLS ON SEXUAL CRIMES AGAINST CHILDREN
SUBCOMMITTEE ON CRIME, TERRORISM,
AND HOMELAND SECURITY
COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED NINTH CONGRESS
H.R. 764, H.R. 95, H.R. 1355, H.R. 1505, H.R. 2423, H.R. 244, H.R. 2796, and H.R. 2797
JUNE 9, 2005
Page 2 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCSerial No. 10930
Printed for the use of the Committee on the Judiciary
Available via the World Wide Web: http://judiciary.house.gov
COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY
F. JAMES SENSENBRENNER, Jr., Wisconsin, Chairman
HENRY J. HYDE, Illinois
HOWARD COBLE, North Carolina
LAMAR SMITH, Texas
ELTON GALLEGLY, California
BOB GOODLATTE, Virginia
STEVE CHABOT, Ohio
DANIEL E. LUNGREN, California
WILLIAM L. JENKINS, Tennessee
CHRIS CANNON, Utah
SPENCER BACHUS, Alabama
BOB INGLIS, South Carolina
JOHN N. HOSTETTLER, Indiana
MARK GREEN, Wisconsin
RIC KELLER, Florida
DARRELL ISSA, California
JEFF FLAKE, Arizona
Page 3 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCMIKE PENCE, Indiana
J. RANDY FORBES, Virginia
STEVE KING, Iowa
TOM FEENEY, Florida
TRENT FRANKS, Arizona
LOUIE GOHMERT, Texas
JOHN CONYERS, Jr., Michigan
HOWARD L. BERMAN, California
RICK BOUCHER, Virginia
JERROLD NADLER, New York
ROBERT C. SCOTT, Virginia
MELVIN L. WATT, North Carolina
ZOE LOFGREN, California
SHEILA JACKSON LEE, Texas
MAXINE WATERS, California
MARTIN T. MEEHAN, Massachusetts
WILLIAM D. DELAHUNT, Massachusetts
ROBERT WEXLER, Florida
ANTHONY D. WEINER, New York
ADAM B. SCHIFF, California
LINDA T. SÁNCHEZ, California
CHRIS VAN HOLLEN, Maryland
DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ, Florida
Page 4 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCPHILIP G. KIKO, General Counsel-Chief of Staff
PERRY H. APELBAUM, Minority Chief Counsel
Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security
HOWARD COBLE, North Carolina, Chairman
DANIEL E. LUNGREN, California
MARK GREEN, Wisconsin
TOM FEENEY, Florida
STEVE CHABOT, Ohio
RIC KELLER, Florida
JEFF FLAKE, Arizona
MIKE PENCE, Indiana
J. RANDY FORBES, Virginia
LOUIE GOHMERT, Texas
ROBERT C. SCOTT, Virginia
SHEILA JACKSON LEE, Texas
MAXINE WATERS, California
MARTIN T. MEEHAN, Massachusetts
WILLIAM D. DELAHUNT, Massachusetts
ANTHONY D. WEINER, New York
JAY APPERSON, Chief Counsel
Page 5 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCELIZABETH SOKUL, Special Counsel for Intelligence
and Homeland Security
MICHAEL VOLKOV, Deputy Chief Counsel
JASON CERVENAK, Full Committee Counsel
BOBBY VASSAR, Minority Counsel
C O N T E N T S
JUNE 9, 2005
The Honorable Howard Coble, a Representative in Congress from the State of North Carolina, and Chairman, Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security
The Honorable Robert C. Scott, a Representative in Congress from the State of Virginia, and Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security
The Honorable Sheila Jackson Lee, a Representative in Congress from the State of Texas, and Member, Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security
The Honorable Mark Foley, a Representative in Congress From the State of Florida
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The Honorable Ted Poe, a Representative in Congress From the State of Texas
The Honorable Ginny Brown-Waite, a Representative in Congress From the State of Florida
The Honorable Earl Pomeroy, a Representative in Congress From the State of North Dakota
Material Submitted for the Hearing Record
Prepared Statement of the Honorable Robert C. Scott, a Representative in Congress from the State of Virginia, and Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security
Prepared Statement of the Honorable Sheila Jackson Lee, a Representative in Congress from the State of Texas, and Member, Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security
Page 7 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Document entitled ''Case Study of Serial Killers and Rapists: 60 Violent Crimes Could Have Been Prevented Including 53 Murders and Rapes''
Document entitled ''Highlights of the Foley Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act''
List of Individuals and Organizations Supporting H.R. 2423, the ''Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act''
Letter from the Honorable William Moschella, Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legislative Affairs, U.S. Department of Justice, to the Honorable Orrin G. Hatch
Map of Registered Sex Offenders in the United States
Document entitled ''Preventable Crimes In Chicago''
Document entitled ''The DNA Fingerprint Act of 2005,'' Introduced by Senator Jon Kyl
HOUSE BILLS ON SEXUAL CRIMES AGAINST CHILDREN
THURSDAY, JUNE 9, 2005
House of Representatives,
Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism,
Page 8 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCand Homeland Security
Committee on the Judiciary,
The Subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 2:06 p.m., in Room 2141, Rayburn House Office Building, the Honorable Howard Coble (Chair of the Subcommittee) presiding.
Mr. COBLE. Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I want towe're one witness shy, but I am told that Mr. Pomeroy is en route, so we will commence and await his arrival.
I want to welcome everyone to the second of three hearings this week before this Subcommittee to examine the problem of violent and sexual crimes against our Nation's children.
I want to first extend my thanks to my friend and colleague from Wisconsin, Representative Mark Green, who chaired the Subcommittee's first hearing on June the 7th, and who has agreed to chair the hearing following this one at 4 today.
We've all been shocked, I am sure, by the tremendous tragedies that have recently occurred involving brutal sexual and violent attacks against our young children. As citizens, parents, and legislators, our first duty is to protect our children, because they represent the future of our country. Now Congress has an important role to play in this area. We must quickly and responsiblystrike that. We must act quickly and responsibly when necessary to ensure the safety of the children.
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This hearing will examine recent proposals made by Members of the Judiciary Committee and other proposed bills introduced by several non-Judiciary Committee Members. Most of these proposals focus on reforms knitted to the Jacob Wetterling Act or the sex offender registries.
The proposals are all aimed at ensuring that sexual offenders comply with registry requirements; adequate efforts are made to apprise the public of the presence of sexual offenders in their neighborhoods; and to ensure the accuracy of the information in the registries; and furthermore, to make State and national registries more user-friendly and accessible to the public.
In addition, we are examining related proposals that address collection and use of DNA evidence, a tool which is critical to solving sex crimes and other violent crimes.
The problems with sex offender registries were underscored by the recent rash of attacks by convicted sex offenders resulting in the killings of Jessica Lunsford, Sarah Lunde, Jetseta Gage, and other children. Since 1994, when Congress first passed the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Act, States have been required to maintain sex offender registries. After the tragic murder of 7-year-old Megan Kanka by a released sex offender living on her street, Congress passed Megan's Law, mandating community notification programs.
All 50 States have sexual offender registries, and all 50 States have some form of community notification requirements. However, States are given broad discretion in creating their own policies governing registry requirements and public notification efforts.
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The challenge we face today is monumental, when you consider these facts. There are currently nearly 550,000 registered sex offenders in the United States. Most are not in prison, and most are unknown to the people in these various communities.
Sex offender laws do not cover certain classes of offenders, such as juvenile sex offenders or other types of offenders who commit crimes against minors, which reflect a risk of possible harm to our children.
The State criminal justice supervision and registry systems are currently overwhelmed. Probation, parole, and community supervision resources are strained. It is conservatively estimated that there are approximately 100,000 lostthat is ''lost''sex offenders; those that have failed to comply with State registration requirements.
There is a wide disparity in the requirements of each State, and there is little to no infrastructure needed to ensure registration when sex offenders move from one State to another or when a sex offender enters another State to go to work or to enroll in a school. There's a strong need for more consistency and uniformity among State programs.
We should be committed to developing a more comprehensive system for Internet availability of such information. We should, furthermore, consider the use of new technologies for tracking sex offenders and for protecting our children from possible attack. Of course, we also need to examine what additional funding may be needed to accomplish these broad goals.
Page 11 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I want to commend my colleagues who have put forth comprehensive and well thought-out proposals to address these problems and others. I look forward to hearing from them today and reviewing these proposals by Members who are not here today before the Subcommittee.
Our children are our most precious resourceyou've heard it said dozens of times, but I say it againthat we have in our country. And our hearts go out to the families of those innocent and beautiful children who've been killed, sexually assaulted, or tortured. Too many times, we've had to read gruesome news accounts about these attacks, watch disturbing news reports, or listen to the anguish of the parents of these children.
I'm anxious to hear from our distinguished panel of witnesses. And now I am pleased to recognize the distinguished gentleman from Virginia, Mr. Bobby Scott, the Ranking Member of this Subcommittee.
Mr. SCOTT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this hearing on the various bills regarding sex and other violent crimes against children.
A host of bills have been filed by Members on both sides of the aisle in the wake of several horrific sex crimes and murders against children in recent years. These types of crimes are especially abhorrent, and the public demands actions to address them and to prevent similar crimes, to the extent possible.
I know all of the bills before us are developed with these objectives in mind. However, as policymakers, we know that these types of tragedies will occur from time to time; so it is incumbent upon us not to simply do something, but to do something that will actually reduce the incidences of these crimes.
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We know that many more children die as a result of child abuse that is reflected by tragic cases of child sexual abuse and murder than we have seen in the news. And we know that the vast majority of child abusers, including child sex offenders, were abused themselves as children.
We also know that the vast majority of abusers are relatives and other individuals well known to the child and family90 to 95 percent, according to Be a Child's Hero Networkand that most cases of abuse are never reported to authorities, or even dealt with in an official manner.
It would be nice to think that we can legislate away the possibility of such horrific crimes, but it is not realistic to believe that we can. And we should certainly seek to avoid enacting legislation that extends scarce resources in a manner that is not cost-effective or that actually makes the problem worse.
While it is clear that having police and supervision authorities aware of all location and identification information about convicted child sex offenders, it is not clear that making that information indiscriminately available to the public, with no guidance or restriction on what they can do with or in response to such information, is helpful or harmful to children.
There have been incidences of vigilante and other activities which have driven offenders underground. And again, the vast majority of offenders are family members or associates well known to the victim. In one recent case, a teacher was reading the names of offenders to a grade school class, in which the name of the father of one of the students, the victim, was in the class.
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Some of the elaborate procedures and requirements of the bills before us will cost a lot of money. And we should assure that such cost/benefit analysis of what would be the most productive use of such money should take place; rather than simply impose the requirements, without any reference to effectiveness or cost/benefit.
Some States have already enacted initiatives, such as those we'll hear today. Hopefully, we'll hear what effect those initiatives have had on crimes against children, so we can consider Federal legislation which will be the most cost-effective.
So, Mr. Chairman, in hearing the testimony today we'll be listening for anything that reflects research and reliable evidence regarding to what might actually protect children and reduce incidences of child sexual and other abuse.
I know we all mean well, but we also must assure that what we do will be actually productive, rather than something that just sounds good but might actually be counterproductive. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. COBLE. I thank you, Mr. Scott.
It's the custom of this Subcommittee to limit opening statements to the Chairman and the Ranking Member, and the Ranking Member of the full Committee and the Chairman of the full Committee, if they happen to be in attendance. Today, however, Mr. Green, the distinguished gentleman from Wisconsin, and Ms. Sheila Jackson Lee, the distinguished gentlelady from Texas, each of those have bills. And I, at this point, would recognize each one of those for a brief statement about their bill. Mr. Green?
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Mr. GREEN. Mr. Chairman, I actually will waive that. I know the hour is late, and a lot of folks have a lot of things to do. So I'll pass on my right to opening statement.
Mr. COBLE. I thank the gentleman.
The gentlelady from Texas?
Ms. JACKSON LEE. I thank the Chairman for his indulgence, and I appreciate very much the Member witnesses that are before us, and so I will summarize very quickly. And I thank the Ranking Member, as well.
As we look at this question of child sexual predators, it is important to look comprehensively at this issue. I simply offer that I'm very pleased that over the last two sessions I've introduced H.R.in this session244, but I've introduced it over the last two sessions, the act called the ''Save Our Children, Stop the Violent Predators Against Children DNA Act of 2005.'' It's based on the premise that only 22 State sex offender registries collect and maintain DNA samples as a part of registration.
The single age with the greatest proportion of sexual assault victims reported to law enforcement was age 14. There were more victims of sexual assault between ages 3 and 17 than in any individual age group over age 17, and more victims age 2 than in any age group over 40.
Page 15 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Children like 5-year-old Samantha Runyon of California, who was abducted, sexually violated, and murdered, are most likely to be victims of sexual assault; with over one-third of all sexual assaults involving a victim who is under the age of 12. Just a few days ago, law enforcement officers in Texas, my Houston Police Department, buried a little ''Doe,'' a little young lady by the name of ''Angel Doe,'' whose face was eaten away as she was thrown into a watery ditch.
It is clear that we need to address this question very directly. And I would hope, as we look comprehensively at this legislation, we'll look at ways and means of attacking the problem head-on.
I close, Mr. Chairman, to say that this legislation would ask the Attorney General to establish and maintain, separate from any other DNA database, a database solely for the purpose of collecting the DNA information with respect to violent predators against children.
It would also provide incentive grants for the Attorney General to make grants to each State that has in effect one or more programs that decrease the rate of recidivism among violent predators against children.
We can only do this together, and we can only do this comprehensively. And so I look forward to the full hearing and the presentation by Members, and the consideration of all of our legislative initiatives. I thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. COBLE. I thank the gentlelady.
Page 16 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Pomeroy, we knew that you were en route, so we started ahead of time. But we knew you would be with us. Good to have you with us.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have four distinguished witnesses with us today. Our first witness is the Honorable Mark Foley. Representative Foley serves the 16th Congressional District in the State of Florida, and was first elected to Congress in 1994. He is currently the Co-Chairman of the Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus. Prior to serving in Congress, Representative Foley was a member of the Florida State Senate and the House of Representatives.
Our second witness is the Honorable Ted Poe. Representative Poe serves the Second Congressional District in the State of Texas, and was recently elected to Congress this year. For 20 years, he served as a felony court judge in Houston, Texas. Judge Poe has devoted himself to many issues related to children, including child abuse, neglect, and violence. He currently serves on the board of the National Children's Alliance.
Our third witness is the Honorable Ginny Brown-Waite. Representative Brown-Waite serves the Fifth Congressional District in the State of Florida, and was first elected to Congress in 2003. She is currently a member of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute and works with Angels in Adoption to recognize families who reach out to children. Prior to serving in Congress, Representative Brown-Waite was commissioner of Hernando County, from 1990 to 1992, and served in the Florida State Senate for 10 years.
Our final witness today is the Honorable Earl Pomeroy. Representative Pomeroy serves the At-Largehow many are there now, Earl?
Page 17 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. POMEROY. Seven.
Mr. COBLE. Seven States who have At-Large Members of the House. And Mr. Pomeroy serves At-Large for the State of North Dakota, and was first elected to the Congress in 1993. Presently, he's served as a member of thestrike that. Previously, he served as a member of the North Dakota State House of Representatives and as a North Dakota insurance commissioner.
Folks, it's good to have you all with us. I will say to you that our Subcommittee operates under the 5-minute rule. We apply that 5-minute imposition against you, as well as against ourselves. So when you see the red light illuminate in your eye in that panel in front of you, Mr. Scott and I will be breaking out the buggy whip if you don't wrap up before too long.
But if you can stay with the 5-minute time rule, we'd appreciate it for a couple of reasons. Number one, time is of the essence. And number two, we have a second hearing on this subject matter immediately following this one.
Mr. Foley, why don't you kick us off.
TESTIMONY OF THE HONORABLE MARK FOLEY, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF FLORIDA
Mr. FOLEY. Thank you, Chairman Coble and Ranking Member Scott. On behalf of Congressman Bud Cramer and myself and the Congressional Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus, I want to thank you for holding this important hearing today, for giving me the opportunity to testify on H.R. 2423, the ''Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act.''
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Mr. Chairman, we've all heard the names in the newsJessica Lunsford, Jetseta Gage, Sarah Lunde, Megan Kanka, Jacob Wetterling, just to name a fewall beautiful children, carrying with them the hopes and dreams of every young child in this country; all taken away from their parents and their futures; killed by sex offenders.
The numbers are shocking. There are 500,000 registered sex offenders in the United States, with 24,000 of them living in North Carolina and Virginia alone and 34,000 in Florida. Of that, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, we're missing 100,000 to 150,000 of these people.
What may be even more surprising to you is that there is a 200,000-person difference between all of the State registries and the Federal National Sex Offender Registry. There are many reasons we have not been able to keep track of these dangerous predators, but let me highlight a few.
First, uniform registration information is not being collected. While most States have some form of registry, they are not usually the ones collecting the registration information. Instead, that responsibility falls on local communities, who use their own specialized criteria and then pass along the info to the States; which results in a registry with inaccurate and conflicting information.
Second, current law does not take into account the increasing transient nature of these predators, or the development of newer technologies that can be used to track them.
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Third is that most States are not completely complying with the law because the carrot-and-stick approach we developed in the original law does not apply. In practice, States are supposed to be eligible for funds for any costs associated with implementing the law. However, we in Congress never funded the program. In addition, the penalty assigned to States for not complying, a 10 percent reduction in JAG funding, no longer applies, because of the way we changed that formula last year.
The Sex Offender Registration Notification Act was designed to address these and a dozen other problems facing the current system. This bill is a thoughtful, pragmatic approach modeled on current law. This is not a knee-jerk reaction to recent events in my State. We have spent over 8 months working on this comprehensive bill with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the U.S. Department of Justice, the FBI, and other Federal agencies.
This legislation has been introduced in the Senate by Senators Orrin Hatch and Joseph Biden. It builds on the assumption that everyonethe Federal Government, the States, an average citizenhas a role to play in keeping track of sex offenders.
First thing we did when we began to draft H.R. 2423 was to clean up the Wetterling Act. We examined what the law was designed to do; kept its intent; tightened up the language; and then placed it into neater categories.
Under current law, this bill clearly lays out what the Federal Government, the States, and sex offenders must do after conviction triggering registration. We then went through and added 25 common-sense provisions that would further strengthen the way we track these pedophiles.
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Some of these provisions include requiring the States, not localities, to collect sex offender registration information; requiring sex offenders to register before they leave custody; incorporating tribal lands under the law; requiring sex offenders to update their registration more quickly than is now required; requiring States to have multi-field, searchable databases and requiring States to make this information available to other States; requiring at least semi-annual registration; requiring annual updates of the offender photos and fingerprints; and increasing registration duration period.
Sex offenders are not petty criminals. They prey on our children like animals, and they will continue to do so unless we stop them. We need to change the way we track these pedophiles.
Mr. Chairman, it has been noted that a society can be judged on how it best treats its children. We have a moral responsibility to do everything in our power to protect our kids from these animals. This bill will turn the tables, and make prey out of these predators. Failing to act on this measure is just playing Russian roulette with our children.
I want to thank John Walsh, particularly, who has led the fight on this effort, and quote him, ''I believe that in our State of Florida, who really does a pretty good job of trying to track these low-lifes, that Sarah Lunde and Jessica Lunsford might be alive today if this bill was passed a year ago.''
Mr. Chairman, I look forward to working with you. I thank Chairman Sensenbrenner as well, and all of the Committee Members, for giving us a chance, for all partnering on this very, very important societal problem, and working together to find some common ground and common solutions.
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[The prepared statement of Mr. Foley follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE MARK FOLEY, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF FLORIDA
On behalf of Congressman Bud Cramer and the Congressional Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus, I want to thank you for holding this important hearing today and for giving me the opportunity to testify on H.R. 2423, the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act.
Mr. Chairman, we have all heard their names. Jessica Lunsford, Jetseta Gage, Sarah Lunde, Megan Kanka, Jacob Wetterling, just to name a few. All beautiful children carrying with them the hopes and dreams of every young child in this country. All taken away from their parents and their futureskilledby sex offenders.
The numbers are shocking. There are currently over 500,000 registered sex offenders in the United Stateswith 24,000 of them living in North Carolina and Virginia alone. Of that, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, we are missing between 100,000 to 150,000 of these predators.
What may be even more surprising to you is that there is a 200,000 person difference between all of the state registries and the federal National Sex Offender Registry (NSOR).
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There are many reasons we have not been able to keep track of these dangerous predators, but I will just highlight what I believe are the top three for you today.
First, uniform registration information is not being collected. While most states have some form of registry, they are not usually the ones collecting the registration information. Instead, that responsibility falls on local communities who use their own, specialized criteria and then pass along that info to the states. What results is a registry with inaccurate or conflicting information.
Second, is that current law does not take into account the increasingly transient nature of these predators or the development of newer technologies that can be used to track them.
Third, is that most states are not completely complying with the law because the ''carrot and stick'' approach we developed in the original law does not apply. In practice, states are supposed to be eligible for funds for any costs associated with implementing the law. However, we never funded the program. In addition, the penalty assigned to states for not complyinga 10% reduction in JAG fundingno longer applies because of the way we changed the formula last year.
The Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act was designed to address these and dozen other problems facing the current system. This bill is a thoughtful, pragmatic approach modeled on current law. This is not a knee-jerk reaction to recent events. We have spent over eight months working on this comprehensive bill with the National Center Missing and Exploited Children, the Justice Department and other federal agencies.
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The legislation, which has been introduced in the Senate by senators Hatch and Biden, builds on the assumption that everyonethe federal government, the states and the average citizenhas a role to play in keeping track of sex offenders.
The first thing we did when we began to draft H.R. 2423 was to ''clean up'' Wetterling. We examined what the law was designed to do, kept its intent, tightened up the language and then placed it into neater categories. Unlike current law, this bill clearly lays out what the federal government, the states and sex offenders must do after a conviction triggering registration.
We then went through and added 25 common sense provisions that would further strengthen the way we track these pedophiles. Some of those provisions include: requiring the states, not localities, to collect sex offender registration information; requiring sex offenders to register before they leave custody; incorporating tribal lands under the law; requiring sex offenders to update their registrations more quickly than is now required; requiring states to have multi-field, searchable database and require states to make that information available to other states; requiring at least semi-annual registrations; requiring annual updates of the offenders photos and fingerprints; and increasing the registration duration period.
Sex offenders are not petty criminals. They prey on our children like animals and will continue to do it unless stopped. We need to change the way we track these pedophiles.
Mr. Chairman, it has often been noted that a society can be judged on how it best treats it children. We have a moral responsibility to do everything in our power to protect our kids from these animals. This bill will turn the tables and make prey out of these predators. Failing to act on this measure is just playing Russian roulette with our children's lives.
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I think John Walsh said it best when he said: ''I truly believe that in our state of Floridawho really does a pretty good job of trying to track these lowlifesthat Sarah Lundy and Jessica Lunsford might be alive today if this bill was passed a year ago.''
I look forward to working with you and Chairman Sensenbrenner on moving this bill as quickly as possible. I look forward to answering any of your questions.
Mr. COBLE. Mr. Foley, you have just applied pressure to your three colleagues, because you did comply with the 5-minute rule. I commend you for that.
Mr. FOLEY. May be a first in my life. Thank you.
Mr. COBLE. Mr. Poe, good to have you with us.
TESTIMONY OF THE HONORABLE TED POE, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF TEXAS
Mr. POE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Mr. Scott. I appreciate the chance to be here, and you holding this hearing.
Media stories about sex crimes against children are presently being reported at an alarming rate in the United States. These crimes are also some of the most under-reported of criminal activity.
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One of the victims' grandmothers of one of these recent crimes said that, ''People have the right to know where sex offenders are living. The police should know, and they should notify the public.'' We know the number-one thing that child predators desire is to remain anonymous. Those days are over. No longer can ex-convicts for child sexual assault move in and out of our neighborhoods without us knowing who they are.
While some States have registration laws for convicted child predators, many still manage to slip through the system.
We know that the recidivism rate of convicted child molesters is extremely high. When many leave the penitentiary, they continue their ways against our greatest resource, children.
On March 15th of this year, I introduced the very first bill in Congress that I've introduced, House Resolution 1355, the ''Child Predator Act of 2005,'' to hold criminals accountable; impose tougher sentences for child predators who repeat. The Act closes loopholes in the present law, and places tools in the hands of parents who want to safeguard their children from these predators. This legislation amends the Wetterling Act of 1994 in six ways.
First, the Child Predator Act defines the term of a ''child predator'' as a person who has been convicted of a sexual crime against a victim who is a minor, if the offense is sexual in nature and the minor is of the age of 13 years or younger.
Second, child predators must report change of residence within 10 days of a move.
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Third, the Child Predator Act requires community notification. Child predators would have to notify, at a minimum, schools, public housing, and at least two media outlets such as newspapers and television stations, radio stations, that are covering the community.
Fourth, the Predator Act would classify non-compliance as a Federal felony, rather than a misdemeanor. Rather than getting a slap on the wrist, these predators who knowingly fail to register would be charged with a felony in our Federal courts.
Fifth, the Child Predator Act would mandate a national database. This would be available on a free access of Internet website.
And finally, this Act would require prominent flagging of all the records in the national database of child predators.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children confirms that sexual victimization of children is overwhelming in magnitude; yet largely unrecognized, and it is under-reported. Statistics cited by the center reveal that one in five girls and one in ten boys are sexually exploited before they reach adulthood. However, less than 35 percent of child sexual assaults are reported to authorities.
Even though previous legislation has addressed this social ill, this criminal conduct, we must stay the course. We must remain ever-vigilant, and not stop the fight. Child predators are innovative. They stalk neighborhoods, playgrounds, Cub Scout dens, our houses of worship and, as of late, they exploit the Internet to target youngsters.
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Mr. Chairman, we must put child predators on notice and let them know once and for all that we will not tolerate victimization of children.
Mr. Chairman, Congress must make a statement to the American public that, while we are concerned about victims in other nations, we cannot overlook victims at home.
The first duty of government is to protect its citizens. We as a people are not judged by the way we treat the rich, the famous, the influential, the powerful; but by the way we treat the weak, the innocentour children.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Poe follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE TED POE, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF TEXAS
Mr. Chairman, media stories about sex crimes against children are presently being reported at an alarming rate. These crimes are also some of the most underreported of criminal acts.
One of these victim's grandmothers said: ''People have the right to know where sex offenders are living. The police should know . . . and they should notify the public.'' We know the number one thing child predators desire is to remain anonymous. Those days are over. No longer can ex-cons for child sexual assault move in and out of our neighborhoods without us knowing who they are. While some states have registration laws for convicted child predators, many still manage to slip through the system.
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We know that the recidivism rate of convicted child molesters is extremely high. When many leave the penitentiary, they continue their evil ways against our greatest natural resourcechildren.
On March 15th of this Year, I introduced my first billthe Child Predator Act of 2005to hold criminals accountable and impose tougher sentences for child predators who repeat. The Act closes loopholes in the present law and places tools in the hands of parents who want to safeguard their children from child predators. This legislation amends the Wetterling Act of 1994 in six key ways.
First, the Child Predator Act defines the term child predator as a person who has been convicted of a sexual offense against a victim who is a minorif the offense is sexual in nature and the minor is age 13 years old or younger.
Second, child predators must report change of residence within 10 days of a move.
Third, the Child Predator Act requires community notification. Child predators would have to notifyat a minimumschools, public housing, and at least 2 media outlets such as newspapers, television stations, or radio stations covering that community.
Fourth, the Child Predator Act would classify noncompliance as a federal felony. Rather than getting a slap on the wrist, child predators who knowingly fail to register would be charged with a felony.
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Fifth, the Child Predator Act would mandate a national database. This would be available on a free access internet website.
And finally, the Child Predator Act would require prominent flagging of all the records in the national database for all child predators.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children confirms that, ''The sexual victimization of children is overwhelming in magnitude yet largely unrecognized and underreported.'' Statistics cited by the Center reveal that 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 10 boys are sexually exploited before they reach adulthood; however, less than 35% of those child sexual assaults are reported to authorities. Even still, according to the Crimes Against Children Research Center, in 2000 alone, 89,000 cases of child sexual abuse were substantiated.
Even though previous legislation has addressed this terrible societal ill, we must stay the course. We must remain ever vigilant and not deescalate the fight. Child predators are innovative. They stalk our neighborhood playgrounds, our Cub Scout dens, our houses of worship, and as of late they exploit the internet to target our youngsters.
Mr. Chairman, we must put child predators on notice and let them knowonce and for allthat we will not tolerate the victimization of children
The first duty of government is to protect its citizens. We as a people are not judged by the way we treat the rich, famous, influential, powerful, but by the way we treat the weak, the innocentthe children.
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Mr. COBLE. Thank you, Mr. Poe.
TESTIMONY OF THE HONORABLE GINNY BROWN-WAITE, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF FLORIDA
Ms. BROWN-WAITE. I want to thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this hearing, and certainly the Ranking Member and the other Members who are here today, on this very important issue.
Mr. COBLE. Ms. Brown-Waite, if you could suspend just a moment, I failed to recognize we've been joined by the distinguished gentleman from California, Mr. Lungren.
Good to have you with us.
Go ahead, Ms. Brown-Waite.
Ms. BROWN-WAITE. Thank you. Nine-year-old Jessica Lunsford was stolen from us on February 24, and our community has not stopped mourning for her since. As a mother and a grandmother, my heart goes out to the Lunsford family in their terrible time of grieving.
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I personally experienced the anxiety and fear throughout the Citrus County area, when residents searched for Jessica for days, and then weeks. I live in Citrus County, about 8 miles away from the Lunsford family. When sexual offender John Couey was arrested, we learned that little Jessica had not only been kidnapped, but had been sexually assaulted and buried alive. I saw the pain in Jessica's father's eyes when he spoke of how she was taken from him. She was his best friend, and his future. I still cannot get out of my head what that little girl must have gone through those days hidden in Couey's closet in the trailer, and being sexually abused, and eventually buried alive in a plastic trash bag.
Almost daily, we hear tragic stories of young children whose lives were robbed from them, and parents who cannot escape from these tragedies. Frankly, like many Members of Congress, I am fed up with these stories, because in most cases, such as Jessica's, they could have been prevented.
Her killer, John Couey, was a registered sex offender in the State of Florida. A man already convicted of molesting a child, he was not living at the address on file with law enforcement. In addition, this monster had a criminal record of 24 arrests, including DUIs and drug charges.
If harsher penalties and more frequent checks had been in place for failing to report a change of address, Couey would have never been on the streets and able to prey on this innocent child. Additionally, Couey's probation officer has stated if he had known of Couey's sex offender status, he would have kept a closer eye on his whereabouts.
Page 32 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Moreover, Florida is not the only State to suffer from these tragedies. Taken as a whole, many States cannot account for up to 24 percent of the sex offenders who are supposed to be there.
Congress has a duty to act and protect our children. That's one of the reasons why I introduced H.R. 1505the bill is known as the ''Jessica Lunsford Act''which would make needed reforms to our sex offender laws. Electronic monitoring of sex offenders must be one of those reforms. Today, these monsters are free to attack our children. We need to know where they are at all times. Period. With this technology, law enforcement will be equipped to do just that. Technology today is good, and it is accurate.
Offenders who would fail to register, under the bill, with a State are currently penalized with a $100,000 fine and 1 year in prison, for a first offense, and a $100,000 fine and 10 years in prison for two or more offenses. My legislation applies this penalty to those who fail to report a change of address, as well.
Most importantly, it mandates that sex offenders who fail to register with a State, or fail to report a change of address, have to wear ankle monitoring devices for 5 years when, and if, they are released from prison. Sexual predators would wear the device for 10 years upon release. Families can feel safer knowing that these penalties ensure that the lowest of criminals are consistently and constantly monitored, and properly punished.
Additionally, my bill requires that address verifications be sent out at least twice per year, and that they are randomly generated. The current Wetterling law requires that they be sent out once a year, and that they're not randomly generated. Non-forwardable verification mailers were written into the Jacob Wetterling Act, but then later removed. The bill ensures that offenders can no longer game the system. Under the bill, they would be unaware of when to expect this mailer.
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Mark Lunsford's heart breaks every time he thinks of missing his little girl's first day in high school, her college graduation, or the grandchildren that he never will meet. I urge this Committee to take action so that no other family suffers because of needless loopholes in the current law. We must fix this, and I stand ready to help in whatever capacity I can.
Thank you again, Chairman Coble, for the opportunity to testify on this legislation.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Brown-Waite follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE GINNY BROWN-WAITE, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF FLORIDA
I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to Chairman Coble for holding this important hearing today.
Nine-year-old Jessica Lunsford was stolen from us on February 24th, 2005 and our community has not stopped mourning for her. As a mother and a grandmother, my heart goes out to the Lunsford family in their terrible time of grieving.
I personally experienced the anxiety and fear throughout the Citrus County, Florida area when residents searched for Jessica for days. When sexual offender John Couey was arrested, we learned that little Jessica had not only been kidnapped but had been sexually assaulted and buried alive. Every heart in the community broke. I saw the pain in Jessica's father's eyes when he spoke of how she was stolen from him. She was his best friend and his future. I still cannot get out of my head what that little girl must have gone through during days hidden in Couey's closet.
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Almost daily, we hear tragic stories of young children whose lives were robbed from them and parents who cannot escape from these tragedies. Frankly, I am fed up with these stories because in most cases, such as Jessica's, they could have been prevented.
Jessica's killer, John Couey, was a registered sex offender in the state of Florida. A man already convicted of molesting a child, he was not living at the address on file with law enforcement. In addition, this monster had a criminal record of 24 arrests, including a DUI and drug charges. If harsher penalties and more frequent checks had been in place for failing to report a change of address, Couey would not have been on the streets and able to prey on our innocent children. Additionally, Couey's probation officer has stated that if he had known of Couey's sex offender status, he would have kept a closer eye on his whereabouts.
NEED FOR ACTION
There is nothing we can do about the ''what ifs'' of Jessica's murder, but Congress can make sure we never fail another family because stricter laws and the elimination of loopholes could have prevented a tragedy. Moreover, Florida is not the only state to suffer from such tragedies. Taken as a whole, states cannot account for 24% of sex offenders who were supposed to register.
Worried constituents ask me every day how this tragedy could have happened, and what their government is doing to prevent it from happening again. Congress has a duty to act and to protect our children nationwide, because these predators move from state to state.
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Before you today is my bill, H.R. 1505, the Jessica Lunsford Act, which would make the needed reforms to our sex offender laws. Electronic monitoring of sex offenders must be one of these reforms. Today, these monsters are free to attack our children. We need to know where they are at all timesperiod. With this technology, law enforcement will be equipped to do just that. We can even program the devices to send alarms if an offender is too close to a school or a playground. Technology today is that good and that accurate.
My legislation mandates that sex offenders who fail to register with a state or fail to report a change of address two or more times wear an ankle-monitoring device for 5 years. Sexual predators would wear the device for 10 years. Families can feel safer knowing that these penalties ensure these lowest of criminals are constantly monitored and properly punished.
Additionally, my bill requires that address verification mailers be sent out at least twice per year and that they are randomly generated. Current law only specifies annual address verification. HR 1505 ensures that offenders can no longer game the system. Under my bill, they would be unaware of when to expect the mailer, or how often they would be checked.
HR 1505 also corrects the information block that has prevented probation officers from being provided with their probationer's sex offender background. The Jessica Lunsford Act requires a state officer or a court to notify the individual's supervising probation officer of any past sexual offense.
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Random address checks, electronic monitoring, and probation officer notification could have saved Jessica Lunsford's life. If these provisions had been in place, Jessica might be alive today.
Mark Lunsford's heart breaks every time he thinks of missing his little girl's first day of high school, her college graduation, the grandchildren he could have met, and all the beautiful life events they could have shared together. I urge this Committee to take action so that no other family suffers because of needless loopholes in the current law.
Pass this bill and make sure Jessica's death was not meaningless. Give her a legacy of saving lives. We must fix this, and I stand ready to help in whatever capacity I can.
Thank you again Chairman Coble for the opportunity to testify on this legislation.
Mr. COBLE. Thank you, Ms. Brown-Waite.
Mr. Pomeroy, you are our clean-up hitter today.
TESTIMONY OF THE HONORABLE EARL POMEROY, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF NORTH DAKOTA
Mr. POMEROY. And it's a very impressive starting lineup that's been before me, Mr. Chairman. I commend my colleagues for the legislation that they've introduced. I'm honored to be on this panel with them.
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I also want to thank you, Mr. Chairman, and the Committee Members. Here we are late in the legislative day, after the last vote's been had for the week. We very much appreciate you spending the time in this hearing to hear about these circumstances.
I believe that these circumstances of the bill that I've introduced, H.R. 95, the ''Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Database Act of 2005,'' along with the other legislation noted today, show that tragedies have happened. We can learn from these tragedies and make legislative responses that make it less likely for tragedies to happen in the future.
We had a situation in Grand Forks, North Dakota, where a lovely young co-ed, Dru Sjodin, was abducted from a shopping center parking lot in daylight on a Saturday afternoon. This never happens in our part of the country, and it traumatized the whole community.
They trudged through snowbanks in the worst weather you ever saw, searching for Dru Sjodin for months. When the snow started to melt, they found her dead body. And some time after that, an arrest was made. A trial was pending, but Alfonso Rodriguez, Jr., has been charged with the crime.
He had been recently released from serving a 23-year sentence for rape and attempted kidnapping, and had other prior convictions before that. He was released. Upon his release, his Minnesota registration was placed in the Minnesota database. The information was sent in to the Department of Justice, under the Jacob Wetterling Act. But there was no other publication, and so the community of Grand Forks, North Dakota, just across the border, a short distance from where he was residing, did not have broad knowledge in any way that we had such a dangerous individual in our midst.
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Additionally, he was released from prison without any referral to the attorney general's office relative to whether they might want to pursue civil commitment. Minnesota has civil commitment laws but, essentially, the jailer made the determination he was free to go, and they never even had the chance to apply that type of review.
Finally, there was no particular extraordinary monitoring, even though while in prison he had not participated in the psychological counseling, not participated in the sexual offender treatment that was specifically recommended for this particular inmate. He was clearly high-risk, and indeed classified high-risk upon his discharge; but there was no extraordinary monitoring.
The legislation that I'm pleased to have co-sponsored with Paul Gillmor is identical to what passed out of the Senate, with lead sponsor Senator Dorgan, called the Dru Sjodin Law, and addresses, we think, in three common-sense basic areas, loopholes that possibly, when closed, would stop this from happening again.
First, we would allow the public to have access to this national database compiled by the Department of Justice under the Jacob Wetterling Act.
Secondly, we would have mandatory referral, mandatory notification to the attorney general's office in those States where civil commitment laws exist, so that they have awareness that the individual is coming out of jail, in a timely fashion to evaluate whether they want to seek civil commitment in light of ongoing danger to the society.
Page 39 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Thirdly, we would also have extraordinary monitoring for especially the first year of release. Statistics show us that the most likely period of repeat offense will occur within the first year of release from prison. And so we would have exceptional monitoring during this period of time as part of the release.
I also want to say that I have co-sponsored Congressman Foley's legislation, H.R. 2423, and commend that to you. I believe H.R. 95 and H.R. 2423 are fair and reasonable responses to further secure the safety of our children, and commend them to your attention. Thank you for listening.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Pomeroy follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE EARL POMEROY, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF NORTH DAKOTA
Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Scott, and members of the Subcommittee, thank you for inviting me to join you to discuss efforts to strengthen our laws in ways that will protect children from sexual predators. Let me commend you at the outset for holding this hearing and for your willingness to examine this critical issue.
It has been conclusively established that recidivism rates are alarming high for those convicted of sexual offenses. According to a Bureau of Justice Statistics study of male sex offenders released from 15 states in 1994, 78.5 percent of those studied had been arrested at least one time prior to their incarceration and 13.9 percent had a prior conviction for a violent sexual offense. This study further finds that 5.3 percent of those sex offenders studied were rearrested for a new sex crime within three years of their release. In addition, the study found that of the released sex offenders who allegedly committed another sex crime, 40 percent perpetrated the new offense within a year or less from their prison discharge.
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A tragedy in my state of North Dakota has demonstrated the need for legislation to address these facts. Dru Sjodin, a 22-year-old University of North Dakota student, disappeared on November 22, 2003, at the Columbia Mall in Grand Forks, North Dakota. This young woman's disappearance sent Grand Forks, a small town which had not seen a kidnapping since 1989, reeling. And for days and weeks and months on end, thousands of volunteers worked tirelessly, trudging through snow, ice and sleet in search of any signs that could unlock the mystery to her disappearance. Her body was eventually discovered in a ravine, nearly five months later, in Crookston, Minnesota.
A 51-year-old Minnesota man named Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. was charged with Dru's kidnapping and murder. Mr. Rodriguez had been released from prison just six months prior to Dru's disappearance after having completed a 23-year sentence for rape and attempted kidnapping. During Mr. Rodriquez's incarceration, he repeatedly refused psychological treatment offered to assist him in his rehabilitation. Mr. Rodriguez was released from prison under just one condition: that he register as a sex offender in the state of Minnesota.
What's significant about the story of Mr. Rodriguez is that he had been rated by the Minnesota Department of Corrections as a ''level three sex offender,'' a category for those viewed to be likely to re-offend. Although Minnesota had a civil commitment law for dangerous sex offenders, failure of the Department of Corrections to alert applicable authorities meant that no consideration was given about the need for civil commitment in this case.
The circumstances surrounding this tragic case reveal the significant shortcomings of our present system. As Members of Congress, we have a responsibility to take these lessons and improve our laws to prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future. That is why Rep. Paul Gillmor and I introduced the ''Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Database Act.'' This bill is identical to legislation introduced by my North Dakotan colleague, Senator Byron Dorgan, that passed the Senate last November by unanimous consent. This common-sense bill gives our citizens the tools necessary to better protect themselves from sexual offenders.
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Sex offenders do not stop at state lines, and neither should our sex offender registries. That is why this legislation would create a federal online sex offender database that would be free and accessible to the general public. The current national database, established under the Jacob Wetterling Act, is accessible only by law enforcement. While many states and local communities provide their own online, public registries, they do not provide information on neighboring states.
Recently, the Department of Justice announced their plans to provide for an online collection of the state databases that currently exist. While I applaud their efforts to nationalize these registries, I believe we must go a step further to ensure that a standardized and truly national database is created. Currently, not all states have online sex offender registries and those that do have registries do not collect the same information. This legislation would ensure that the same information would be collected and posted for all fifty states. Should states not comply with this legislation within three years, the state's funding allocated to them under the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 would be cut by 25 percent and reallocated to state's already complying with the law.
The Sjodin case demonstrated that the decision to proceed with a civil commitment proceeding in the case of a level three offender should be left to the state and not a prison corrections officer. Under this legislation, states with civil commitment proceedings would be required to provide timely notice to their state's attorney general of the impending release of a high risk sex offender, so that they can consider whether to institute a civil commitment proceeding.
Page 42 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Finally, the Sjodin case demonstrated that high risk offenders cannot be without some level of monitoring to ensure that these individuals do not once again prey on our communities. Just because someone has served their time does not mean that they have been rehabilitated. Under this legislation, the state would be required to intensely monitor for at least one year any high risk sex offender who has not been civilly committed and who has been unconditionally released.
Before I conclude, I would also like to mention that I am also an original co-sponsor of H.R. 2423, The Sex Offender and Registry Notification Act of 2005. I believe it is imperative to protect our children when they are online and to go after those who would bring harm to our children. H.R. 2423 addresses the threat of online predators by expanding the definition of a criminal offense against a minor to include ''use of the Internet to facilitate or commit a crime against a minor.'' I appreciate the Subcommittee's full and fair consideration of this bill.
I believe that H.R. 95 and H.R. 2423 are fair and reasonable responses to further secure the safety of our children, and I would deeply appreciate your assistance in moving legislation on this issue through the Committee and to the floor of the House of Representatives. Thank you for your attention to this important matter.
Mr. COBLE. Thank you. And I think, Mr. Scott, this is the first case, the first impression, when all the witnesses complied with the 5-minute request. I commend you for that.
I've been told that Mr. Poe is on a short leash, that you have to leave in 25 minutes, Mr. Poe; so let me start with you. Mr. Poe, you've discussed in your testimony the gaps in current law in terms of coverage of certain sexual offenders. More specifically, how significant is this problem when it comes to States, and how much variance is there?
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Mr. POE. States have different registration laws. Some comply mentally with a mentalexcuse me, minimal registration requirement. Others, such as Florida and Texas, have great registration laws. People move across State lines. They fall through the cracks. They don't re-register when they move to another State. The State they left loses jurisdiction. And that is the purpose of this bill, to prevent that from happening, by having a national database.
Mr. COBLE. Thank you, sir.
Mr. Foley, you submitted a national map revealing the number of ''lost'' sexual offenders in each State. And I'm told that, conservatively, there are 100,000 in that group. Elaborate on the problem, the extent of it, and why this problem has occurred.
Mr. FOLEY. Well, I think you have to take it back to the basic problem of not having cross-State registrations. First and foremost, we are able to collect data from all of these States, thanks to the National Center's excellent efforts in doing so. The Federal Government relies on them for this information.
But as Mr. Pomeroy clearly indicated, and particularly, anyone on a border area, whether you're living in north Florida and surrounded by Georgia, Alabama, or a quick trip to Mississippi, you may feel harassed or put upon in one of those States, so you quickly go across another State's jurisdiction where you no longer have a registration responsibility or capability.
That's why we try to incorporate this as a model for 50 States to follow, because we think it's best not only to get the data to the law enforcement personnel that can then monitor, but also protect those residents of adjoining States.
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And so this is why we chose to show the severity of the problem with the kind of numbers that are evident throughout the entirety of the United States. It's not just Florida. It's not just one State. All of us share in the same grave responsibility.
Mr. COBLE. I thank you, sir.
Mr. Pomeroy, your proposal would require the creation of a national sex offender registry. How would that differ from the recent announcement by the Justice Department of its plan to create a National Sex Offender Public Registry Website?
Mr. POMEROY. Right. The proposaland we certainly welcome it, and it's an advance from where we areby the Department of Justice would essentially collect the State registrations, and put them out in a compiled form.
What the legislation would do is have a uniform format, applied across the 50 States. And so we think, therefore, the legislative response is a bit stronger and is going to be more helpful. But we certainly do welcome the DOJ initiative.
Mr. COBLE. I thank you, sir.
Ms. Brown-Waite, you've outlined an interesting idea. That is, mail verification of addresses for sexual offenders on the registry. Elaborate, if you will, logistically how that would work. And in your view, would it be cost-effective?
Page 45 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. BROWN-WAITE. Mr. Chairman, I'm delighted to answer that. The bill calls for a random mailing to the sex offender and predators twice a year. By this random mailing, they're not going to know when it's going to arrive. Right now, States do one mailing a year, and most States do it shortly after the beginning of the year, or after the beginning of their fiscal year; so that the sexual offenders know when it's going to arrive. A random mailing would be a better method to determine whether or not these predators and offenders who violate our children are really living where they say they're living.
Mr. COBLE. You probably don't havewell, I shouldn't say that. Do you have an idea as to cost?
Ms. BROWN-WAITE. Actually, we do have an idea as to cost. And I would remind the members of the panel that there are right now methods that States can go through to draw down some funding. One is what are called SOMA grants, Sexual Offender Management Assistance grants. So that's one source that States could turn to. And of course, the other is the Byrne grant process.
But CBO has given our bill a preliminary estimate of 500,000 for the mailer; and a range of 5 million, possibly as high as 30 million, with an estimate of about 18 million, for the ankle monitoring device.
Mr. COBLE. Thank you, ma'am.
The gentleman from Virginia.
Page 46 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SCOTT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Eighteen million for the ankle bracelet? Is that what you said?
Ms. BROWN-WAITE. Yes, sir.
Mr. SCOTT. I've seen estimates for Virginia alone at the $100 million range for the ankle bracelet program.
Ms. BROWN-WAITE. I can just share with you that technology has brought down the cost of the ankle monitoring devices. And I know that the State of Florida recently passed legislation requiring this, and we are using many of the newer figures.
Mr. SCOTT. Are these national figures, or just Florida figures?
Ms. BROWN-WAITE. They're national figures, but they alsothey reflect the newer, lower cost of the tracking devices.
Mr. SCOTT. How many offenders would be monitored?
Ms. BROWN-WAITE. Well, it would dependI don't know the number that they were looking at when they came up with this estimate. Those who did not notify of a change of address or those who failed to respond to the mailer would then be sent to prison. So that's, of course, part of the cost. They would be sent to prison. When they get out, then they would have to wear the ankle monitoring device.
Page 47 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SCOTT. Of all of the children abused in America, how many are abused by those who have already been convicted of a sex offense and would be covered by this notification?
Ms. BROWN-WAITE. There have been estimates. I have seen estimates, Mr. Scott, of anywhere from a recidivism rate of about 24 percent, all the way up to a very high percentage, over 50 percent, so I don't
Mr. SCOTT. What does ''recidivism rate'' mean?
Ms. BROWN-WAITE. The ''recidivism rate'' means they were a sexual offender on a child; they got out, and did it again, sir.
Mr. SCOTT. Did anything again? Or the 3 percent that would offend again with a sex offense?
Ms. BROWN-WAITE. Yes, they were sex offenders. Sex offense.
Mr. SCOTT. It's your testimony that the recidivism rate for sex offenders is higher than average recidivism rate? That's your testimony?
Ms. BROWN-WAITE. I didn't compare it to average recidivism rate, sir. I just gave the criminal rate
Mr. SCOTT. Of the portion of children that are abused, what portion are abused by those convicted of a child abuse crime?
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Ms. BROWN-WAITE. Of the percentage of children who are sexually abused
Mr. SCOTT. Right.
Ms. BROWN-WAITE.what percentage are violated by somebody who previously was convicted of a sex crime?
Mr. SCOTT. Right.
Ms. BROWN-WAITE. Again, that figure, the recidivism rate figure, is 24 percent
Mr. SCOTT. Do you know? It's a very simple question. If a million children have been abused, how many of them were abused by someone already convicted of a sex crime against children? Do you know?
Ms. BROWN-WAITE. Mr. Scott, I don't know.
Mr. SCOTT. Okay.
Ms. BROWN-WAITE. I can only give you the recidivism rate.
Mr. SCOTT. Does anybody on the panel know? The Justice Department has 3 percent. You've said 20. Does anybody know?
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Mr. FOLEY. Well, the statistic I have is that a sex offender released from custody is four times more likely to be arrested for a sex offense crime than any other criminal infraction.
Mr. SCOTT. Okay. Of the children who are abused in America this year, how many of them will be abused by a person previously convicted of a child sex crime? Does anybody on the panel know?
Mr. POMEROY. Mr. Scott, the statistics I have are from an article entitled, ''Recidivism of Sex Offenders Released From Prison in 1994.'' This is a study of Bureau of Justice statistics: 9,691 male sex offenders. And again, it is the 1994 year. Some of these stats may be helpful to you. Released child molesters with more than one prior arrest for child molestation were more likely to be rearrested for the same crime
Mr. SCOTT. Wait a minute. Of all of the children who are abused in America, what portion of them were abused by someone who had previously been convicted?
Mr. POMEROY. I do not have that figure.
Mr. SCOTT. Okay. If no one has theif you don't know, I mean, you don't know. I mean, we just make up questions. It's a simple question. Because if we're trying to reduce child abuse, and a very small percentage are being abused by those convicted, then we're missing most of the target, if our goal is to reduce child abuse. My question was: Of all of those abused, how many of them were abused by someone convicted of a child sexual offense? And no one appears to know. Okay.
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Now, we know we're going to hear later this afternoon from experts who will tell us that rehabilitation programs will reduced the problem 50 percent. Any of the bills have any rehabilitation in them, since we know that works?
Mr. FOLEY. My bill does not. But I welcome that kind of insight because I truly believe that this is a serious issue that needs to be dealt with, not only with criminal penalties and ankle bracelets, but we've got to get to the root cause, which is mental illness and other things that cause someone to so aggressively go after a child.
Mr. SCOTT. Okay. Now, Ms. Brown-Waite has given the cost estimates of the cost of her bill. Do others have the cost estimates for their bills?
Mr. POMEROY. I do not.
Mr. SCOTT. Okay. Okay, we do not. And finally, before my time expires, we have these reporting requirements in effect in, what, all 50 States now? All 50 States? Do we have any research showing the result of reducing child sexual abuse as a result of those initiatives?
Mr. FOLEY. Do we have empirical data, is that what you're asking? I think, clearly, when you know where they are and you're able to monitor them you have a better handle on their whereabouts and their presence. Some of the crimes we've seen committed are a result of their either not being on the registry, not having properly registered, not complying with probation.
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Mr. POMEROY. Mr. Scott, I would add to that, these accounts carry reports of communities that are highly concerned upon learning that they have someone with ahas a conviction record relative to sex offenses moving into their community, and they are moved out of the community. So we don't know whether that in the end prevents a crime, but we know they feel safer.
Mr. SCOTT. I know it's an unfair question to ask, if there's any research to suggest that any of these proposals will make a difference. I know that's an unfair question.
Mr. FOLEY. Well, I think one of the things we want to do is, by having a conversation, a national conversation on the consequences of what people are doing, we hope it may stop them from acting. The Virginia State Crime Commission today, which is just meeting, came up with a lot of problems in the registry there. They have 170 registered sex offenders who were discovered among the State prison population, even though the registry shows them as free and living in Virginia. We have a lot of problems, Mr. Scott, in Florida, in Virginia, in North Carolina.
Mr. SCOTT. Those are problems with the registry. My question was, has there been any study to show that the registry makes a difference in the number of children sexually abused in the State in which the registry is active?
Mr. POMEROY. I don't have empirical data. You want empirical data
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Mr. SCOTT. Because you have, I'm sure, reports of child sexual abuse, and then you have the registry coming in, and then you have other reports of child sexual abuse. Did the registry make a difference?
Mr. POMEROY. I see
Mr. SCOTT. And I know it's an unfair question to ask, if there's any evidence to show that these make a difference. I know it's an unfair question.
Mr. POMEROY. Well, look, I think we don't have to have empirical data to tell you it absolutely makes a difference to people concerned about the safety of their children, to be able to have access to information that there might be an elevated risk of a sexual offender down the street. They care deeply about that. They think that's information they need to have to keep their
Mr. COBLE. The gentleman's time has expired. We could revisit this in second round, if we do that. We've got to get Mr. Poe out of here.
We've been joined by the distinguished gentleman from Ohio, Mr. Chabot, the distinguished gentleman from Texas, Mr. Gohmert. And in order of appearance, the gentleman from Wisconsin is going to be recognized, since you were here first. Mark?
Mr. GREEN. If it's okay, I will yield my place and order to Mr. Lungren.
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Mr. COBLE. I recognize the distinguished gentleman from California, Mr. Lungren, for 5 minutes.
Mr. LUNGREN. I thank the gentleman. I would not ask for that, except I have to go to the transportation conference. And it's been a while since I've been on a conference committee, and I don't want to miss that opportunity.
Mr. COBLE. Mr. Lungren, I'm supposed to be there, too, so cover me.
Mr. LUNGREN. I'll promise not to take your programs. That's a nice gesture. [Laughter.]
This is an important subject for so many of us. We've moved so far. When I was in Congress the first time around, 25 years ago, we worked with John Walsh to set up the first legislation dealing with missing and exploited children. That was controversial at the time. The question was, ''Why should there be any Federal responsibility?''
When I was attorney general in California, I noted that at that time, while sex offenders were required to register and their records were ''public,'' we had created such difficulty for any member of the public to find that out that, in essence, they were a protected class.
And, at that point in time, the argument against legislation that my office drafted and we carried and eventually was passed was that we were invading the privacy rights of sexual offenders, and that it would somehow upset their rehabilitation.
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We were asked questions such as just asked by the gentleman from Virginia, as to whether we would prove absolutely whether or not publication of this information would provide a difference. And it's the difficulty of proving a negative, because it is successful in the area of deterrence.
The question really is whether or not parents of children ought to have information so they can take reasonable approaches to protect their children from those who have offended previously. That's really the question. If one parent, having that information, intervenes such that a child does not come in the custody of an individual, that may very well be a deterrent effect. Without this information, you couldn't check on those who sign up to be volunteer baseball coaches, soccer coaches. And we found that on numerous occasions.
But the question I'd like to ask the four of you is this: I see there is support for further publication of this information by ease of the Internet. At the time I first dealt with the legislation in California, some ''experts'' in the field suggested that we not do that because they suggested that some confirmed pedophiles, frankly, liked to work with one another, given the opportunity, and that Internet access would give them the opportunity to find out who else might also be involved in this aberrant behavior.
As a result, when we first set it up, we required that people had to access that information at a law enforcement department, and at that time had to sign a document saying they were not a registered sex offender. Believe it or not, the first time we tried it out at the California state fair, we had a specific instance in which a woman was checking for sex offenders in her neighborhood, and discovered that her boyfriend, who was standing next to her, was a registered child sex offender. He had neglected to tell her that.
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We had other instances where individuals were preyed upon by male adults who apparently were seeking a relationship with the mother of a child or children, such that they would have the opportunity for sexual exploitation.
So my question is, with the four of you who support this legislation, has that ever entered into it with respect to your thinking on these bills? And has anybody ever advised you that we ought to be concerned about this information being accessible to the pedophile sexual predators themselves? Mr. Foley?
Mr. FOLEY. I don't know if there's a way to limit those types from viewing and joining together, if you will.
Mr. LUNGREN. Well, the question is, do we put it on the Internet so that it's accessible to anybody who's got Internet access? Or do we have it in some other form or fashion?
Mr. FOLEY. I think a wide publication, the widest possible publication, is the best deterrent.
Mr. LUNGREN. Okay.
Mr. FOLEY. And the Internet today is the modem of choice for people to gather information. And I think, again, if people have committed the most senseless of crimes against innocent victims, then they should suffer the consequences. And if that includes everyone in America seeing their face, then that is the sentence for their behavior.
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Mr. LUNGREN. Judge Poe?
Mr. POE. Likewise, I think public notice of conduct is the greatest deterrent of conduct. And make it easy access. I think it's absurd that many parents now in some of our databases have to pay to get into the Internet site. And so I would agree with Mr. Foley. Let everybody know who they are.
Mr. COBLE. And the other two witnesses may respond to the question, as well.
Ms. BROWN-WAITE. I certainly agree with Mr. Foley. And I can just tell you that in Florida we have the availabilityyou put in your zip code. And it used to give you just the sexual offenders and predators in your zip code. It now does a 5-mile radius around your zip code. So that, you know, the whole community can know.
And whether you live in a mobile home community, or whether you live in a gated, multi-million-dollar-home community, regardless, people are shocked when they put that information in and they find out that right down the street is a sexual offender or predator; which puts parents and caregivers and grandparents on guard. And that's the important thing. That's the benefit from having it on the Internet.
Mr. POMEROY. I think that the technology now available through the Internet, and people's broad acceptance and familiarity with that technology, lends itself toward broader publication, along with my fellow panelists. And in the course of the consideration of the Dru Sjodin law, which included last Congress, I've not heard this raised as a serious concern by law enforcement. Interesting idea, though.
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Mr. COBLE. The gentleman's time has expired.
The gentleman from Wisconsin, Mr. Green.
Mr. GREEN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And Mr. Chairman, I think one of the frustrations that many of us have when we engage in debates on these bills is that we just don't have very good numbers, period. There are not very good studies out there. There are not good statistics that we can refer to. And my friend and colleague, Mr. Scott, as he was cross-examining each of the witnesses testifying here
Mr. SCOTT. I wasn't cross-examining them. I was asking them questions.
Mr. GREEN. Oh, I think ''cross-examination'' is a pretty good term for what you were attempting.
Let me ask a similar question of at least a couple of the members of the panel. Now, I'm not going to ask you if you have absolute proof that these databases, that these registries would make a huge, marked difference in deterring such crime, but I'll ask you something else.
And let me begin with Ms. Brown-Waite, if I can. Instead of giving us numbers and statistics on a national scale, perhaps you can tell us how your legislation would in fact have made a difference in the case of Jessica Lunsford. You can tell us with that.
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Ms. BROWN-WAITE. Thank you. That's an excellent question. Let me give you but one portion of the bill that certainly would have helped. Mr. Couey, the offender, the kidnapper/sexual predator, who also killed the young lady, was on probation. His probation officer was never told that he had a prior sexual offense. And he was working at the same school that Jessica went to. Had his probation officer known that, he never would have allowed him to work at a school. That's one of the provisions that certainly would have been a preventative measure that would have kept Jessica, perhaps, alive today.
Mr. GREEN. So I guess what you're saying is, while you don't have broad studies that you can point to, to show how this would make a huge difference nationwide, if this had been the law, there is at least a good chance that Jessica Lunsford would be alive?
Ms. BROWN-WAITE. Absolutely, sir.
Mr. GREEN. Well, it seems to me that that's a pretty good purpose for legislation.
I turn now to my good friend, Mr. Pomeroy. I guess I'd ask you a similar question. With your legislationobviously, so many of our billsmy own, as wellare driven by stories where a human face is put on a problem that all too often is reduced to numbers and anecdotes. Perhaps if you can talk a bit about your legislation and how that legislation, had it been in effect, would have made a difference in this case?
Page 59 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. POMEROY. Sure. Three provisions in the law. First, the national publication of the registry. It is highly probable that there would have been an awareness that a dangerous individual, a person, Mr. Rodriguez, was in the vicinity; albeit on the Minnesota side.
Secondly, it's highly possible that there might have been civil commitment proceedings brought, had the attorney general's office only known that this dangerous sex offender, who had refused to participate in the prison programs, had been released. And so it's quite possible he never would have been on the street. He would have been civilly committed.
Thirdly, with the extraordinary monitoring required under the bill, Mr. Rodriguez, assuming he's convicted, would have had the pressure of very frequent, heavy monitoring. And that might have influenced his behavior in ways where he was not out there perpetrating. Thank you.
Mr. GREEN. So again, Congressman Pomeroy, you're not telling us that you have studies that can show how this law would dramatically change the overall crime rate, recidivism rate; but you are saying to us, at least in the case that we all know about and followed, quite frankly, from all parts of the country, this legislation would almost certainly have made a difference, and perhaps have prevented her untimely death?
Mr. POMEROY. Yes, I'm convinced it would have prevented her death.
Mr. GREEN. Thanks. That's all I have.
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Mr. COBLE. I thank the gentleman.
The gentlelady from Texas.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Again, I want to applaud the hearing, which I think is long overdue. It seems that we can give attention to so many different issues in this Congress, and not focus in a pointed way on how do we resolve a most gruesome and continuing problem.
Let me just note for the recordthough I wish I had sort of the long listit seems that this has been a bad year. In 2004 and 2005, we have seen time after timeand it is not regionally directedviolence and atrocities that have occurred to the most vulnerable, and that is our children.
Let me ask, I'd appreciate it if I could hear from all of my colleagues. And I thank you for indulgingI've reviewed your testimony, but was taken away by another meeting. What would be the single most important aspect, if we could come together and generate the marking up and the moving to the floor of the legislative initiatives that are before us, what would be the statement that we would be making nationally?
And I think that's really the key. Because someone reminded me that we're talking about Federal law. And Judge Poe, I think you're well aware that there's a State jurisdiction, as well, that oversees these individuals, many of whom may be tried in State courts. And so I think that one of the most important things that we can do in the Judiciary Committee is to make the national statement of intolerance, that we will no longer tolerate this kind of random and reckless and violent attacks against the Nation's children.
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So maybe, Congressman Foley, you want to pull out a singular entity of your bill, Congressman Poe, Congresswoman Brown-Waite, and certainly Congressman Pomeroy. And certainly, all of them seem to center around the question of registration.
You know that I'm going to offer the point that we want to make sure that we have the rights of the innocent protected, and that means those who may be charged inappropriately. But I think that there is always a higher standard when we are talking about children, who cannot speak for themselves.
And many times, unfortunately, the Government has to step in where parents and custodial adults fall, if you will, for whatever reason, or fail for whatever reason, to protect the Nation's children, or their children.
So I'd appreciate your comment on the importance of a national statement, and the importance of seeing these bills through the process of hearings and markups and some results that would create this national standard that we're so eager to have. Congressman Foley?
Mr. FOLEY. Well, first, let me suggest, regrettably, that in this Nation we track library books better than we do pedophiles. Your suggestion on DNA testing and other things is so critically important, and I think what you said is absolutely accurate: to send a clear message to anyone contemplating a crime of this nature, that we will make their life a living hell.
Because part of what we do here in this process is to try and set up deterrence; whether it's Sarbanes-Oxley on criminal mischief in corporations, or pedophiles and our children. It's not always about reconciling statistics. It's about setting the bar so they realize that if they offend, that their life as they knew it will be terminated.
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No longer will they have freedoms. Ankle bracelets, some people reject. I'm sorry. We put one on Martha Stewart. She wasn't going to hurt anyone. And we're worried about a sexual predator being monitored during their probationand required to wear it for life, as our bill does, if they re-offend?
So I think you're right on point, Ms. Jackson Lee. It's high time we elevate this debate to a national voicea yelling match, if we have to. Thank you.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Congressman Poe? I'm going down the line.
Mr. POE. Thank you, Jackson Lee. I appreciate your concern about this epidemic. It's not only a crime issue. I think we should make a statement that it is a public health issue, when you're dealing with the health and wellbeing, physical and mental health, of children. That would be the first place that I would move on a national basis.
And second, based on the over 20,000 criminal cases I heardand a good many of them are these type of casesthe one thing that these individuals want is to remain anonymous. Those days need to be over. Therefore, community notification in my bill I think is vital; that they notify the communities which they move into.
And the second thing we know is that they repeat again. The people I've tried, we know that most of them had multiple crimes against the one victim, and there were other victims as well that were never in the courtroom that were also prey to these individuals. So community notification and a public health issue.
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Ms. JACKSON LEE. Thank you. Congresswoman?
Ms. BROWN-WAITE. Thank you very much. I know of your sensitivity to this issue. I think whether we are from Texas or whether we're from Florida, whether we are from North Dakota, we want to make sure that children nationwide have, and families have, a sense of security.
Unfortunately, predators and offenders don't stay in one State. They go across State lines. And we need to make sure that there is a time frame and a punishment for not registering when you do move, when you change your address. Because if I pull up on the Internet my zip code, and I know who's around there, but three of the people have left and they've moved to your State, I think you need to know that right away, and your State officials need to know that right away. Absent a severe penalty for not informing officials that they move, then our children are clearly at risk. That, to me, we can't tolerate.
We, as Federal elected officials, have to make the Jacob Wetterling Act and Megan's Law, all of those laws that protect children, we need to make them tougher.
Mr. COBLE. The gentlelady's time has expired.
Mr. Pomeroy, you may respond.
Mr. POMEROY. While I've been serving in Congress, I've been privileged to become the father to two children that I've adopted, and I feel this legislation so deeply and so personally. The parents of the victims that we've discussed in the course of this hearing have had to live the worst fears of any parents.
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There's an awful lot of parents out there worrying about the safety of their children. And moving this legislation forward, I'm absolutely convinced, can do some good in terms of keeping those children safe. Certainly, it's not the end of the day, it's not the guarantee; it's still a dangerous world out there. But this helps. And these families deserve our response.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. I thank the Chairman. Some of the things, Mr. Chairman, that we are speaking of I believe only the Federal legal system can handle, and that's why I think it's so very important.
Mr. COBLE. The gentlelady's time has expired.
The gentleman from Ohio, Mr. Chabot. Mr. Poe, what do you have, Mr. Poe, four or 5 minutes left?
Mr. POE. I need to leave now, Mr. Chairman, if I could be excused.
Mr. COBLE. If you have a question, put it to Mr. Poe first, if you will, Mr. Chabot.
Mr. CHABOT. Okay. I don't have one specifically, but I appreciate your testimony here this morning. And I want to thank you for holding this hearing.
Page 65 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. COBLE. You are recognized, Mr. Chabot. And Mr. Poe, if you have to leave, you may be excused.
Mr. POE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. GOHMERT. Could I ask the gentleman to yield, so I could ask Mr. Poe?
Mr. CHABOT. I'd be happy to yield.
Mr. COBLE. That will be fine.
Mr. GOHMERT. Thank you, and I can yield back. But to my former fellow district judge from Texas, I know you have sensitivities about States' rights, too. I know we both feel very passionately about this issue, and the recurrence of these types of offenses. So I'm sure you in your own mind dealt with the States' rights issues here. And is the Federal Government usurping FederalI mean States' rights? And I'd just ask for you to comment on that, please.
Mr. POE. Mr. Gohmert, the problem is, they cross State lines. And because they cross State lines, they re-offend, and the Federal Government has to do something about that. But I'm sensitive to State's rights, but this is a problem that has occurred with the numerous cases this year. All of these individuals moved about from State to State, because of the lack of a national registration requirement.
Page 66 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. CHABOT. Okay. Reclaiming my time, we've got a very distinguished panel. We appreciate their time being here today. And the statistics that our colleague, Mr. Foley, had included in his testimony are really shocking, and they demonstrate what our children are up against, and the fact that we need to mobilize all the resources available to us to stop really this horrible trend that we've seen in our country.
And it includes using DNA technology. And we know the effectiveness of DNA testing to help crack down on sex offenders and child predators. But I'd like to focus my question on the effectiveness of DNA testing to help families find their children who may be missing because they've been abducted by a predator; or in the most unfortunate situation, to identify the remains of those that have been violently murdered.
We had a particularly horrific incident in our area in Cincinnati, and we've been working with the mother of a daughter who was abducted and ultimately discovered to have been murdered. Her remains, however, havethey've not discovered the location of the remains; although the perpetrator has been convicted.
And we have discovered that there are literally thousands of remains at coroners' offices around the country, in police departments. And, unfortunately, we haven't done the DNA testing that's really necessary to locate a number of these people and give some closure to some of these families.
So Mr. Foley, in Florida you have a very comprehensive missing person program, including receiving grants to increase the use of DNA testing to locate missing children and adults and identify human remains.
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Do you believe that encouraging law enforcement to take DNA from family members is part of a missing person investigation? Would it enhance our efforts to help families who may have had to go through these ordeals? And do you think that encouraging law enforcement to take DNA samples from remains would help to locate and to bring the families morelet them know that actually something's being done and that they're positively contributing by cooperating in that manner?
Mr. FOLEY. It serves a multitude of opportunities. As Ms. Jackson Lee knows in her bill, what you try to do both is use it as a way to go back after prior crimes and find out if the person accused in this crime committed the crime against that child, using DNA collections.
You also, most recently, had a case where a mother was told there was a fire in a building; her child they thought had died in the fire. They found this child who looked very similar to hers several years later. They did a DNA test, identified it as the child of this woman who thought her own child had perished. So DNA testing can be a valuable tool to help families come to grips on whether the missing person is in fact theirs.
Once in a while, we're never able to solve the crime, but closure for them is as important, knowing if that is their loved one, that at least they can bring closure and finality to their search.
I've got to imagine the pain of a family wondering where their child is. And I just believe that that gives us a tool both for the protection and, as Ms. Jackson Lee mentioned, the exoneration of people that are not complicit to the crime.
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Mr. CHABOT. Thank you. I know Mr. Green has a bill that deals a little more specifically with DNA. And we've talked with them, and are willing and would like to work with them.
With the additional remaining time that I have here, I'd be happy to allow the other two panel members to comment either on what we talked about just now or anything else that you perhaps thought that we needed to go into a little bit more and didn't have sufficient time. Ms. Brown-Waite?
Ms. BROWN-WAITE. Let me just briefly touch on the DNA testing. It certainly is one tool that law enforcement can use. And I was delighted, about a month and a half ago, 2 months ago, they were telling on the news that there is a kit that's out now that parents can actually take a swab from the inside of the child's mouth, put it in a preservative, and keep it in the refrigerator indefinitely. Certainly, medical and scientific technology like this, as it advances, will go a long, long way to help to solve some of the issues involving missing family members.
Mr. CHABOT. Thank you.
Mr. POMEROY. Well, thank you very much for the opportunity. I very much want to call your attention to this provision in the bill that I've introduced relative to making sure civil commitment authorities are notified when there is a release from prison.
A number of StatesI think it's a trendare bringing on-line civil commitment. And it's the traditional civil commitment jurisdiction where, if you're a danger to yourself or others, you can beit's not criminal, but you can be civilly committed.
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And so if you have a dangerous offender, highly likely to commit a crime again, and they can prove that up in a civil commitment hearing, that individual is not in society. That individual is civilly committed.
And there has to be agencies talking to one another. There has to be notification when these people are coming out of prison. This seems to me to be a very simple thing. But I think the Federal Government can help address some dysfunction at the State level, with this provision. Thank you.
Mr. CHABOT. Thank you. Yield back, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. COBLE. The gentleman's time has expired.
The gentleman from Texas, Mr. Gohmert.
Mr. GOHMERT. And I would be glad to yield, Mr. Chabot, if you'd like more time. All right, thank you.
I had a question actually for each of you, just to see your impression and get your comments. And before I ask, I would like to just commend all of you for the work you've done, and Ms. Jackson Lee. There are so many of us that, as I mentioned, my former judge friend, are very passionate about this issue. We've seen so much injustice, so much that could have been avoided if the proper steps had been taken.
Page 70 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC My question has to do with the type of registration. Texas requires registration. I've seen situations where people were paroled far sooner than they should have been, and adequate registration didn't occur and other things happened.
I'm wondering if we should require perhaps even the charge itself to be accessible in the registration. Because I've known of situations where some young kid ''moons'' somebody, and his lawyer said, ''Just plead 'No Contest'. You get probation.'' And the next thing you know, he's got to register as a sex offender. And then it scares everybody in the neighborhood that this nice young man is a sex offender.
On the other hand, one of the things that makes sex offenders often so dangerous is they are so persuasive. They are incredibly persuasive. So they can convince young people, they can convince girlfriends, they can convince people that they are not this horrible person, and convince them that the charge wasn't nearly what somebody might have thought it was.
I'm wondering if it might not be a good idea to have the actual charge set out, that they on such-and-such day of such-and-such, they did then and there do such-and-such act to such-and-such person, something along thatI'd just like you all's comments.
Mr. FOLEY. No question. I think we have to be very, very cautious, because there are differences between aggravated sexual offenses and things like you described. A recent case, where neighbors chose to create posters of a young man in the community; he happened to be suffering a mental illness, and he probably exposed himself and was listed as a sex offender. He was so mortified, he committed suicide.
Page 71 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We've got to be careful that we delineate what a sex offender is, and maybe some unusual behavior. We have to rely on the courts to discern. We could get into familia situations, where a 19-year-old boy takes off with a 17-year-old girl; the father has a problem with it, despite the fact they're consenting; charges him with a crime. His life could be ruined. And facts should prevail in that case to exonerate him from a sexually deviant behavior.
And so I think your question is why we're before the Judiciary Committee; to sort out and provide some guidelines and some safety valves from, you know, going too far, as well.
Ms. BROWN-WAITE. Actually, I think that's an excellent idea, and I'll tell you why. Because it also could go the other way. I know of a case where a middle-aged man truly was a sexual offender. He told people it was a lot less serious than what it was. He said, you know, someone walked in the men's room. And to make matters even worse, this particular person's wife had an adult home, where she took elderly people into her home.
And the State of Florida, until I made a ruckus over it, did absolutely nothing about it. But he was able to talk it down and say exactly that. So I think having the offense specifically be spelled out will help on both ends of the spectrum.
Mr. POMEROY. I agree. I've nothing to add in terms of well-spoken words of my panelists here, but I agree.
Mr. GOHMERT. Well, I appreciate you all's comments. That was my question. I applaud you all's efforts. And having handled thousands of criminal cases and having testified in different types of cases myself, I know it's never comfortable to be in the hot seat, but I applaud your efforts in doing so. This is a good cause you're here for.
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Thank you, Mr. Chairman, I yield back.
Mr. COBLE. I say to the gentleman from Texas, I commend you for that line of questioning. And Mr. Foley pointed out the tragic situation where the guy died by his own hand. We do have to be extremely cautious. And I don't want to nail anybody unjustly. And I'm glad you opened that door, Mr. Gohmert.
Now, folks, keep in mind, we've got to be out of here imminently, but I do think we have time for another round. And I'll start mine off very quickly, and then I'll recognize Mr. Scott.
Much has been said, folks, about the State compliance on registry requirements, or the non-compliance. Let me ask each of you this question. What is your belief regarding the role of the Federal Government in ensuring that States comply with the registry requirements? Mr. Foley, I'll start with you.
Mr. FOLEY. Well, the first thing we want is the U.S. Attorney General, in consultation with the States, to develop a seamless statewide-national database. We also provide some funding for theirif you will, a ''carrot'' approach, to get them into compliance. It doesn't do any good to have 50 different States working on 50 different systems. So in this bill we set up a national, with consultation with States, and try to encourage their compliance and participation.
Mr. COBLE. Ms. Brown-Waite?
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Ms. BROWN-WAITE. I think the role of the Federal Government is to set stricter minimum standards than currently exist in the law now. States, of course, because of States' rights, have the ability to have more stringent regulations in place. But I think it's incumbent on us to set stricter Federal regulations.
Mr. COBLE. Mr. Pomeroy?
Mr. POMEROY. I think that Federal action would make it comprehensive, could make it uniform, and could establish a floor of protection. Because clearly, the danger to our little ones shouldn't vary by geography. I want a floor of protection.
Mr. COBLE. The gentleman from Virginia.
Mr. SCOTT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, I think there's some confusion between notifying law enforcement and monitoring and those who may need to know, like a day care center or something like that getting access, and public release on the Internet where anybody out of curiosity can just look. They're two different things.
In the cases that were cited, I think the suggestion was, had the person been monitored by law enforcement, things wouldn't have happened. I don't think there's any debate over the law enforcement's need to know and monitor and all this information available to law enforcement. The question is whether it is productive or counterproductive to have it, or the expense of having the public display.
Page 74 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC One of theI think it's well known, and we're going to hear later this afternoon, that 90 to 95 percent of child sexual abuse is friends and family. And so if we're talking about stranger convicts, you're talking about a small, minuscule number of the cases of child sexual abuse.
Ms. Brown-Waite, I think you cited a study from 1994. And I assume it's the ''Recidivism of Sex Offenders Released From Prison in 1994,'' that's presently available on the Bureau of Justice Statistics' website, Department of Justice. And you cited that of the released sex offenders, 24 percent were re-convicted of a new offense.
You didn't read the part that said compared to non-sex offenders released from State prison, sex offenders have a lower overall re-arrest rate. When re-arrests of any type of crime, not just sex crimes, were counted, the study found that 43 percent of released sex offenders were re-arrested. The overall re-arrest rate of those released for non-sex offenders was higher, 68 percent. It goes on to say that of those released sex offenders, 3.5 percent were re-convicted of a sex crime within the 3-year follow-up, 3.5 percent.
Let me ask a couple of questions. Is there anything in any of the bills that deals with the liability questions if someone is wrongfully listed, or someone wrongfully not listed, or not sanctioned if they haven't reported, or they haven't been followed up on?
Mr. FOLEY. Are there any penalties if they do not?
Mr. SCOTT. Is there any consideration of liability one way or the other?
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Mr. FOLEY. No. I have not created liability for
Mr. SCOTT. So if someone is wrongfully listed, what happens? Anything?
Mr. FOLEY. Well, hopefully, they can declare their innocence and be immediately removed from the list.
Mr. SCOTT. Is there any process for that?
Mr. FOLEY. [No response.]
Mr. SCOTT. Okay.
Mr. POMEROY. Mr. Scott, I think they'd also have their full array of civil justice remedies.
Mr. SCOTT. Well, that's civil liability. You can sue somebody for wrongfullyfor damages.
Mr. POMEROY. Right.
Mr. FOLEY. Current law has a way in which to be removed from a website. And this would continue in our bill, as well.
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Mr. SCOTT. There would just be removal? No civil liability?
Mr. FOLEY. No, sir.
Mr. SCOTT. You suggested that the crime reporting is not uniform; different States describe different crimes using different descriptions. With that being the case, how do you have a uniform reporting so that everybody is reporting similar crimes? What kind of database would we be talking about?
Mr. FOLEY. Again, working with the U.S. Department of Justice and the Attorney General, trying to create similar fields, so you have data entry points much like we have a 1040 form, a standardized form, for our taxes; try to create a uniform form for all States to input the same data and then share the data.
Mr. SCOTT. I can assure you, that's going to be difficult, because people describeI mean, just assaults, there are various gradations, from a little fistfight to attempted murder. Different States describe those crimes using different terms, and where you draw the line is going to be extremely difficult. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. COBLE. I thank the gentleman.
The gentleman from Wisconsin, Mr. Green.
Mr. GREEN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. No more questions.
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Mr. COBLE. I thank the gentleman.
The gentlelady from Texas, Ms. Sheila Jackson Lee.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Again, I want to offer my appreciation for the Ranking Member and the Chairman of this Committee, to finally gather all of these legislative initiatives for it to be heard that Congress is concerned.
And I just want to offer these two points into the record. Some of these statistics, obviously, are always changing. Murder is the only major cause of childhood death that has increased over the past three decades. Between 300,000 and 400,000 children are victims of some type of sexual abuse, exploitation, every year.
And certainly, Mr. Pomeroy, as you've noted, becoming a father during your tenure in Congress, your interest and concern is raised; but I would simply say that we owe an obligation, regardless of our status. We're grateful, those of us who are parents. We do have this great interest. But we know all of our colleagues realize that we must make a national statement on behalf of our children.
I would say to you this question in closing, as well. One of the aspects of the legislation that I have offered that I'm glad that Mr. Foley and I are on the same page is that we provide a single database for convicted sexual predators, so that there is the opportunity for law enforcement to have a quick check, if you will, when they begin to do their investigation.
Page 78 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I want to acknowledge that we have been really moved on this issue by Missing and Exploited Children's organization, that has been a great leader for years.
And then I want to share two stories. In my community, a series of sexual acts against little boysand that's another thing that we need to realize. This is an equal-opportunity offender, a sexual predator. No parent who has a son should be comforted, or has a daughter should be comforted, of any age.
And this individual was preying upon a region or an area in my congressional district for a 2-year period. And certainly, our local law enforcement were doing a fine job. But I came in all of a sudden and met with community leaders, and I said, ''Has anybody called the FBI?'' No one had called the FBI to engage on a number of grounds that they could have been called.
Once they got called in, you would not have imagined. In 24 hours, this individual, who lived in the neighborhoodI can't say that he was a friend of these children; he just happened to live in the neighborhood; a grown, grown man, living with his motherwas found immediately. That's one incident where we can do better at cooperation.
The second one is this whole idea of stranger, friend, or not. What about a little boy who's in a shopping area with his family. Someone comes up to him and says, ''I don't speak English well'' he happens to be of the same ethic background ''help me go and talk to the McDonald's man about getting some food.'' In a matter of seconds, this little boy is taken away, 12 years old, and sexually assaulted.
Page 79 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So I think that the point again about the national standard is key. And one of the things I'd appreciate if you'd answer so thatthis whole question of cooperation between Federal and State, if I allow each of you to answer it.
But this other point in the legislation that I have is the whole question of recidivism. Giving States incentives that can prove that they are working with some sort of strategy to eliminate the recidivist inclination of a sexual predator or someone who violently acts against a child. I'd appreciate if you all would answer those questions.
Ms. BROWN-WAITE. I'll be happy to go first. I had a problem with the Jessica Lunsford case, where the State's attorney did not proceedactually, dropped charges against three people who had information about what was going on in the trailer. Thankfully, the United States Attorney's OfficeI'd been working with themthey have assured me that they have an ongoing case.
But very often, what you have is a turf battle, where the local law enforcement doesn't want the big brother to come in from outside. And so that, unfortunately, is a problem.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. We need more cooperation.
Ms. BROWN-WAITE. Absolutely. And, you know, I don't know if you mandate that. I guess that would be like, you know, mandating goodness. Like one child asked me to draft a bill that everybody be kind to each other. But getting law enforcement to cooperate. And you know, certainly the FBI has a lot more technology available to them than what very often local law enforcement has.
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Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Pomeroy?
Mr. POMEROY. I think legislation, Ms. Jackson Lee, could help encourage the kind of cooperation that we need. Federal, State, localparent's don't care; they want their kids safe. And we've got to cut across jurisdictional lines to do it. I think maybe some encouraging direction in the language of the legislation itself could be helpful.
And I like what you said about a special sentence to really work on this recidivist question. Because the statistics in the article I earlier quoted show that convicted sex offenders are significantly more likely than a non-convicted sex offender to re-perpetrate. And so let's get after this with more of a focused effort. And I think some incentives would be a great idea.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Foley.
Mr. FOLEY. Let me just say that, in all my 11 years serving in this Congress, this has probably been the most productive on issues like this, where Democrats and Republicans are blurred by partisan distinction.
And I think the same goes for our law enforcement communities. They want to do a good job protecting kids. We haven't given them comprehensive tools. We haven't provided the funding that we promised in these bills. We mandate things, and then we say, ''Go it alone, and good luck.''
Page 81 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And the technology is so out of date, no one can even access the data. They don't even report missing persons to a national registry. So we've got to start, I think, with a clean page; start with a proper approach; provide uniformity and continuity; and then give them the efforts, or at least the resources that they need to fulfill the mission.
When we find these cases, these horrific cases, I can tell you, those State attorneys and those sheriffs and those police chiefs who have been in the glare of the media spotlight think, ''What could we have done to prevent this?'' Well, it's a little late at that point.
So what we are doing here in these billsand, thankfully, we're all on the same page with different provisionsbut at the end of the day, as these bills merge together, we're going to have a product that works and that has been thought through and contemplates all of the pitfalls. And that's why I'm very proud of the kind of tone we're setting here today.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. COBLE. You're indeed welcome.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. And if you would indulge me just a minute to thank these witnesses, and to make mention of the fact that, as you were speaking, the CEO and President of Missing and Exploited Children walked into the room. And I hope he sensed the harmony and the spirit of cooperation that the Chairman and the Ranking Member are exhibiting, and, of course, Members of this body are exhibiting.
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And hopefully, this will work all the way through passage of these legislative initiatives, with a sense of fairness to individuals who would be prosecuted wrongly; but to make sure we make a national statement on behalf of our children.
Mr. FOLEY. If the gentlelady will yield, Mr. Allen was, in fact, on the NBC ''Today Show'' this morning, doing the great work of the National Center, as well. And I thank you.
Mr. COBLE. I thank the gentlelady.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. And I thank the Chairman.
Mr. COBLE. And I want to reiterate what the lady from Texas said. I commend you all for your passion. Obviously, you feel very passionately about this. And we thank you all for your testimony.
In order to ensure a full record and adequate consideration of this important issue, the record will be left open for additional submissions for 7 days. Also, any written questions that a Member wants to submit to the witnesses should be submitted within the same 7-day period.
This concludes the legislative hearing on ''House Sexual Crimes Against Children Bills.'' Thank you for your cooperation, and for those in the audience, as well. The Subcommittee stands adjourned.
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[Whereupon, at 3:40 p.m., the Subcommittee was adjourned.]
A P P E N D I X
Material Submitted for the Hearing Record
PREPARED STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE ROBERT C. SCOTT, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF VIRGINIA, AND RANKING MEMBER, SUBCOMMITTEE ON CRIME, TERRORISM, AND HOMELAND SECURITY
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding ths hearing on bills regarding sex and other violent crimes against children. A host of bills have been filed by members on both sides of the aisle in the wake of several horrific sex crimes and murders against children in recent years. These types crimes are especially abhorrent and the public demands actions to address them and to prevent similar crimes to the extent possible.
I know that all of the bills before us are developed with these objectives in mind. However, as policy makers, we know that these type tragedies will occur from time to time, so it is incumbent upon us to not simply do something, but to do something that will actually reduce the incidences of these crimes. We know that many more children die as a result of child abuse than is reflected by the tragic cases of child sexual abuse and murder that have been in the news, and we know that the vast majority of child abusers, including child sex offenders, were abused themselves as children. We also know that the vast majority of abusers are relatives and other individuals well known to the child and family, 9095% according to BACHNET (Be a Child's Hero Network), and that most cases of abuse are never reported to authorities or ever dealt with in an official manner.
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It would be nice to think that we can legislate away the possibility of such horrific crimes, but it is not realistic to believe we can and we should certainly seek to avoid enacting legislation that expends scarce resources in a manner that is not cost effective or that exacerbates the problem. While it is clear that having police and supervision authorities aware of all location and identification information about child sex offenders, it is not clear that making that information indiscriminately available to the public, with no guidance or restriction on what they can do with, or in response to, such information, is helpful or harmful to children. There have been incidences of vigilante and other activities which have driven offenders underground. And, again, the vast majority of offenders are family members or associates known to the victim. In one case, a teacher was reading the names of offenders to a grade school class on which there was the name of the father of one of the students, the victim, in the class.
Moreover, some of the elaborate procedures and requirements of the bills before us will cost a lot of money, and we should assure there is a cost benefit analysis of what would be the most productive use of such money rather than simply impose the requirements without references to effectiveness or cost/benefit.
So, Mr. Chairman in hearing the testimony today, I will be listening for anything that reflects research and reliable evidence regarding what might actually protect children and reduce incidences of child sexual and other abuse. I know we all mean well, but we must also assure that what we do is actually productive rather simply something that sounds good, but is counterproductive. Thank you.
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PREPARED STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE SHEILA JACKSON LEE, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF TEXAS, AND MEMBER, SUBCOMMITTEE ON CRIME, TERRORISM, AND HOMELAND SECURITY
The problem of violence against children and sexual exploitation of children has been highlighted by recent events involving brutal acts of violence against children. Recent examples include: (1) the abduction, rape and killing of 9 year old Jessica Lunford (who was buried alive); (2) the slaying of 13 year old Sarah Lunde, both of whom were killed in Florida by career criminals and sex offenders. In Philadelphia, four defendants were charged with the stabbing and killing of a 15 year old girl, who they then threw into the Schuykill River. All of these tragic events have underscored the continuing epidemic of violence against children.
These tragic events have underscored the continuing epidemic of violence against children, and the need to reexamine the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act, Megan's Law and the Pam Lyncher Sex Offender Trafficking and Identification Act. Specifically, recent proposals have been made to fill in gaps in existing law in order to protect children from sexual predators.
Furthermore, there is a wide disparity among the state programs in the registration requirements and notification obligations for sex offenders. Given the transient nature of sex offenders and the inability of the states to track these offenders, it is conservatively estimated that approximately 20 percent of 400,000 sex offenders are ''lost'' under state sex offender registry programs. In addition, there is a disparity among state programs as to the existence of Internet availability of relevant sex offender information, and the specific types of information included in such websites. Moreover, the States tend to take a more passive role in disseminating sex offender information, relying instead on law enforcement to disseminate such information to interested entities such as schools and community groups. Recently, the Justice Department announced that its plan to implement a public, national sex offender registry, linking together the State registries into one national website.
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In addition, the sexual victimization of children is overwhelming in magnitude and largely unrecognized and underreported. Statistics show that 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 10 boys are sexually exploited before they reach adulthood, yet less than 35 percent of the incidents are reported to authorities. This problem is exacerbated by the number of children who are solicited onlineaccording to the Department of Justice 1 in 5 children (10 to 17 years old) receive unwanted sexual solicitations online.
Department of Justice statistics underscore the staggering toll that violence takes on our youth (DOJ national crime surveys do not account for victims under the age of 12, but even for 12 to 18 year olds, the figures are alarming). Data from 12 States during the period of 1991 to 1996 show that 67 percent of the all victims of sexual assaults were juveniles (under the age of 18), and 34 percent were under the age of 12. One of every seven victims of sexual assault was under the age of 6.
In closing, I look forward to hearing the testimony of our distinguished panelist.
DOCUMENT ENTITLED ''CASE STUDY OF SERIAL KILLERS AND RAPISTS: 60 VIOLENT CRIMES COULD HAVE BEEN PREVENTED INCLUDING 53 MURDERS AND RAPES''
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DOCUMENT ENTITLED ''HIGHLIGHTS OF THE FOLEY SEX OFFENDER REGISTRATION AND NOTIFICATION ACT''
LIST OF INDIVIDUALS AND ORGANIZATIONS SUPPORTING H.R. 2423,
THE ''SEX OFFENDER REGISTRATION AND NOTIFICATION ACT''
Individuals and Victim's Parents
Maureen Kanka, Megan Kanka's mother
Page 89 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCEd Smart, Elizabeth Smart's father
Linda Walker, Dru Sjodin's mother
John Walsh, America's Most Wanted
Patty Wetterling, Jacob Wetterling's mother
Boys and Girls Clubs of America
Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association
Fraternal Order of Police
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
National Children's Alliance
National District Attorneys Association
LETTER FROM THE HONORABLE WILLIAM MOSCHELLA, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, OFFICE OF LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, TO THE HONORABLE ORRIN G. HATCH
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MAP OF REGISTERED SEX OFFENDERS IN THE UNITED STATES
DOCUMENT ENTITLED ''PREVENTABLE CRIMES IN CHICAGO''
DOCUMENT ENTITLED ''THE DNA FINGERPRINT ACT OF 2005,'' INTRODUCED BY SENATOR JON KYL
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