July 21, Utah is among 22 states to join in the first ever national sex-offender registry, which went online Wednesday. The Web site comes after several congressmen, including Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, have said having a national registry site was a logical next step since the passage of Megan's Law, a federal statute requiring states to maintain a registry of convicted sex offenders.
Discussion on the need to track convicted sex offenders from state to state heated up recently after two Idaho children were kidnapped, one of them murdered, by a registered sex offender who didn't inform authorities of his whereabouts when he left North Dakota for Idaho.
Joseph Edward Duncan III has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder and three counts of first-degree kidnapping in the deaths of an Idaho mother, her year-old son and her year-old boyfriend. Schofield, assistant attorney general for the Office of Justice Programs, in a statement. The Justice Department has also invited other states to participate, with remaining sex-offender sites to be linked to the national site within six months. Deputy Utah Attorney General Kirk Torgensen, who oversaw the creation of Utah's sex-offender registry while working at the Utah Department of Corrections, said the launch of the national Web site is a great resource.
While it should not be seen as a panacea against sex crimes, Torgensen said any help in combating such crimes should be welcomed. An official with the Utah Department of Corrections, which maintains Utah's sex-offender registry, said the department is beefing up staff to ensure that information on Utah offenders is accurate and timely. Ford said two more staff members have been assigned to work on Utah's contributing site.
Currently, there are 6, individuals listed in Utah's registry, with 60 percent on probation, parole or in prison. Ford said that law enforcement has had access to identify sex offenders nationwide for years. Now is the first time that the public will be able to have access to that information. Justice Department officials explained that the Web site uses a common computer language: The link allows data from different hardware and software systems to be recognized and displayed on the national site.
Hatch called the national registry a great beginning, but more needs to be done to ensure uniformity in the types of information states keep on sex offenders, as well as accuracy. State corrections officials dispute that claim, saying probation and parole agents keep close tabs on offenders' whereabouts. Hatch is sponsoring the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, which would require sex offenders nationwide to register more often, in person, and update their information promptly when they move, change jobs or face significant jail time.
Currently, Utah law makes it a class A misdemeanor for noncompliance, with a mandatory 90 days in jail. Hatch's bill would also require states to provide uniform information that is more compatible with the national registry.
Ford said Utah officials have struggled with the national format, which requires a listing by county. Utah's registry is sorted by city. Ford said they are working on solving that issue.