- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 11, 2005

If you don’t want your weekend ruined, read no further. Virginia’s sex-offender registry cannot account for nearly 250 known offenders — that’s rapists, molesters and pedophiles. Of these, 113 were listed with a jail address but were not in that jail, while 128 offenders with a state Department of Corrections address are not in the state prison system, according to the Virginia State Crime Commission’s Sex Offender Task Force. So, where are they?

“They’re not in any incarcerated population, and we don’t know where they are,” said Kimberly Hamilton, executive director of the Crime Commission, which formed the task force. At least she’s honest. Take, for instance, John M. Williams. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that Williams, a twice-convicted rapist, is supposed to be at the Staunton Correctional Center, according to the state’s sex-offender registry. The prison was closed in 2003.

The Task Force met in Richmond last week to discuss some of its preliminary findings, which include:

• Of the Virginia sex offenders listed, 716 held in prisons and jails had inaccurate address records on the registry.

• Of those on the registry and listed in local jails, 258 were not there. Among those, 145 were actually in state prisons.

• The registry list 213 sex offenders as not being held but are actually in local jails.

This is unconscionable mismanagement. States track sex offenders because of all criminals, they are notoriously more likely to commit another sex crime on the weakest among us — namely, women and children. Once they have served their time, sex offenders are released back into the community, where, depending on the severity of their crime, they must consistently update the state’s registry. In Virginia, the task force found, that obligation is far too lenient. For instance, sex offenders must update the registry within 10 days of changing their address. Delegate Bob McDonnell, Virginia Beach Republican and the commission’s co-chair, thinks this is far too much time. We agree. The task force review shows that more than 500 offenders were not in compliance with the registration requirements as of May 20.

Registration requirements are also inadequate and depend too much on an offender’s good faith. For instance, an offender can list a family member’s home as his address, but live elsewhere. Another absurdity includes the ban on an offender loitering within 100 yards of a school. But the offender is free to work or live on school grounds — such as a university. Virginia is adding nearly 1,200 new offenders to the registry every year, but has only 10 employees monitoring the system.

The task force is looking to reform many of these problems, but reform will cost money. Gov. Mark Warner, who is considered presidential material in some quarters of the state, and the General Assembly should spare no expense in fixing the problems — and with all deliberate speed.

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