Other views: Offender law is poor approachThe idea that North Dakota isn’t in compliance with a national sex offender registration law is a little surprising — and a little hard to take. But Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem’s explanation makes sense. The law is another example of federal overreaching.
By: Grand Forks Herald, The Jamestown Sun
The idea that North Dakota isn’t in compliance with a national sex offender registration law is a little surprising — and a little hard to take.
But Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem’s explanation makes sense.
The law is another example of federal overreaching.
North Dakota’s apparent indifference to the law is surprising because it grew out of a shocking crime that occurred here in Grand Forks. Dru Sjodin was abducted and killed by a man who’d served time for sex offenses. The man convicted of the crime, Alfonso Rodriguez, had been released from Minnesota’s corrections system. He’s appealing a death sentence for the crime.
So, the sex offender law has local interest — and local application.
The trouble, Stenehjem explains, is that “Dru’s Law” is a one-size-fits-all approach.
The law establishes a procedure for assessing an offender’s danger of offending again. According to the law, risk should be assessed based on the law that an offender was convicted of breaking.
North Dakota’s policy is to consider other factors that could increase the risk of re-offending.
This seems to be a sensible approach. It brings a level of sophistication to evaluation that the federal law lacks because it focuses only on the offense itself and not on other circumstances.
Of course, North Dakota’s objections mean that there isn’t a consistent approach to this problem nationally. That concerns U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat who sponsored the national registry system.
But North Dakota is hardly the only objector.
Other states share Stenehjem’s view of the law as crude — a kind of blunt instrument.
Here’s how Madeline M. Carter, director of the Center for Sex Offender Management sees the issue:
“Professionals have long recognized key difference among sex offenders. These relate to the types of crimes they commit, to the victims they target, to their risk for re-offense and to the types of interventions that will most likely reduce their risk.”
The federal approach puts all of these aside in favor of a single factor, conviction under a specific law.
Perhaps the chief reason that states haven’t come into compliance, though, is cost. The registry is another unfunded federal mandate. Most states just can’t afford it.
That explanation doesn’t apply in North Dakota, which is 99 percent compliant, according to the attorney general.
But his objection is weightier in any case.
The registry can’t be completely effective without all of the states — so, objections to its one-size-fits-all approach need to be dealt with.
North Dakota has applied for a year-long extension delaying implementation of the law here. That year should be used to amend the federal law, making it more flexible — and thus more effective.