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Tribes have 2 years to comply with Adam Walsh sex offender list 8-07

By CARSON WALKER
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - American Indian tribes have two years to
start tracking sex offenders themselves or take part in their state's
registration system after an attempt to delay a requirement of the
Adam Walsh Act failed.

Congress passed the act one year ago to protect children from
predators by setting up a national Internet database designed to let
law enforcement and communities know where convicted sex offenders
live and work.

There are an estimated 500,000 sex offenders in the United States and
as many as 100,000 are not registered.

Indian tribes had until Friday to tell the Department of Justice if
they plan to establish their own tracking system or allow states to
do it. Tribes that didn't indicate their plans will default to state
jurisdiction.

An effort in Congress to delay that notification date by one year -
to give tribes more time to decide - failed, so tribes now have until
July 27, 2009, to have their own system in place or an agreement with
states.

Eric Antoine, in-house attorney for the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, said the
tribal council felt it wasn't consulted before the law passed and
voted to handle its own sex offender registry.

“It's a question of tribal sovereignty for the tribal council,” he said.

The tribe hopes that some federal funding will be available to help
cover the cost, Antoine said.

Kim Lowry, acting director of the Office of Communications in the
Office of Justice Programs in Washington, said the Department of
Justice has communicated through e-mails, meetings and mailings to
more than 560 tribes.

Though tribes had until Friday to indicate their intentions, those
that indicated they want to comply with the law's requirements on
their own can still let the state handle it if they choose, she said.
The tribes are not handing over sovereignty, Lowry said.

“You can opt in but if you decide six months or a year from now that
you can't, you don't want to, you'd rather turn it over to the state,
you can come back and say we're changing our minds,” she said.

“They (tribes) want to do this to protect everybody. It's just
figuring out how it's going to be done,” Lowry said.

Virginia Davis, associate counsel for the National Congress of
American Indians, agreed that most tribes will likely let the states
handle the sex offender registry.

She said her organization sought the year delay so there was more
cooperation going into the project.

“For this to work in Indian country, the states and the tribes are
going to have to work together,” Davis said.

The tribes do want to prevent sex offenders from seeking refuge on
reservations, she said.

“The tribal leaders feel really strongly about this issue and are
concerned about keeping their communities safe. We have high rates of
sexual assault in Indian country and this is an issue we care
about,” Davis said.

Marty Jackley, U.S. attorney in South Dakota, said all nine tribes in
South Dakota indicated they'll form their own sex offender registry
but might still let the state handle it.

John Strohman, legal counsel for the state's sex offender registry,
said it didn't come cheap.

“The state has gone to great efforts to set up a real quality
database,” he said. “We have to have the capacity to take DNA,
process fingerprints and make sure that the database is up to speed
so that when you go online to check on someone, that things are
working.”

Jackley said he's already seen the benefits of Adam Walsh because of
other provisions that increase the minimum penalties for child
abusers and predators.

“It gives weight when you harm the most vulnerable members of
society,” he said of the act.

On the Net:
South Dakota Sex Offender Registry: http://sor.sd.gov
National Sex Offender Public Registry: http://www.nsopr.gov/
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